“They often ask me about flying, sitting in hot tubs and scuba roller skating… but never have I been asked about traffic accidents, despite the possible threat,” says Dr.Redelmeir, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto.
Concerned about this unstudied risk, Redelmeier began an investigation into the driving records of pregnant women and car accidents, and found that pregnant women are far more likely to be in car accidents, up a staggering 42% when compared to non-pregnant women. Such is the risk that statistically, 1 in 50 women will be in a car crash during their pregnancy.
The study concluded that all women are equally at risk of causing car accidents, regardless of socioeconomic background or age, during their pregnancy. The only variable that changed in correlation to a woman’s pregnancy was time, and the spike happed during the first month of the second trimester.
No change in car accidents occurred when pregnant women were passengers, meaning that the great increase in accidents all occurred while the women were driving. Researchers attribute this to the fact by the second trimester, pregnant women feel normal, even though they are changing drastically both mentally and physically. Symptoms of the hormonal changes include fatigue, distraction and nausea.
Although the risk of causing accidents increases drastically during the second trimester, Dr. Redelmeier believes that “the message here is not to stop driving,” but to “start driving more carefully.” He hopes that his studies will help pregnant women realize the stress their minds and bodies are under and be more careful on the road.
According to health experts, the highest cause of infant death by trauma is car accidents, which makes sense given the increase in car accidents caused by pregnant drivers.
Incidentally, the research also concluded that by the last month of pregnancy, women were driving safer than before becoming pregnant, and by the year after giving birth, the accident rate dropped even lower.