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Car crash risk increases during pregnancy: study

May 12, 2014

Sunnybrook researchers have found that pregnancy is associated with a significant risk of a serious car crash requiring emergency medical care during the second trimester, according to a research paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) today.

"Pregnant women often worry about air flights, scuba diving, hot tubs, and other topics in maternal health, yet individuals may overlook traffic crashes despite their greater health risks," states lead author Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a researcher with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and a physician in Department of Medicine, University of Toronto.

Traffic mishaps place mother and baby at risk of fetal death, chronic disability, and complicated emergency medical care. Statistically, about 1-in-50 pregnant women will be involved in a motor vehicle collision at some point during pregnancy.

“The increase was almost fully explained by multiple-vehicle crashes in which the woman had been driving a car (not a truck or miscellaneous vehicle) and had a high triage urgency,” writes Dr. Jon Barrett, chief, maternal fetal medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, with coauthors.

“Almost all traffic crashes could be prevented by a small change in driver behaviour. The absolute risks among pregnant women, however, are still lower than among men of this age,” emphasizes Dr. Redelmeier, who is also staff physician, division of general internal medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Pregnant woman driving