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Increased Risk of Crash for Women Drivers during Pregnancy

Pregnant womanA study of over half a million pregnant women in Ontario, Canada, concludes that there is a 42% higher risk of a serious road accident in the second trimester compared to the same women before pregnancy.

The research was carried out by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), which found that the increased risk leads to an extra 75 crashes sending pregnant women to hospital each month in Ontario.

Lead investigator and senior scientist with ICES, Dr Donald Redelmeier, commented on the findings. “Pregnant women often worry about air flights, scuba diving, hot tubs and other topics in maternal health, yet may overlook that traffic crashes are greater health risks”, he said.

Contributing factors

There is not thought to be a link between the increase in road traffic accidents during pregnancy and more risky driving behaviour. In fact, pregnant women are generally more conservative in their activity and less likely to take risks. Instead, physiological changes during a normal pregnancy may contribute to the higher risk of road traffic accidents: fatigue, nausea, distraction and insomnia may increase the risk of driver error.

In obstetrical literature, absentmindedness during pregnancy is often known as “baby-brain” and surveys of pregnant women do suggest that around half complain of “sporadic cognitive lapses”. However, there is little clinical evidence to prove any significant relevance.

Risk is still lower than male drivers

Dr Redelmeier urged pregnant women not to give up driving on the basis of the findings. In fact, the research shows that men in the same age group were still at higher risk of a road traffic accident than pregnant women in their second trimester.

The emphasis, he insists, should be on informing pregnant women of the risk during pre-natal care and making them aware of the need to drive more carefully.

The researchers recommend that pregnant women, particularly those in their second trimester, avoid excessive speed, always observe traffic signals, cut down on potential distractions and always wear a seat-belt.


Graph source: Dr. Donald Redelmeier, Canadian Medical Association Journal

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