Protecting your unborn child may be as simple as buckling up.

Each year, about 170,000 pregnant women are involved in U.S. car accidents. About 370 of these women lose their unborn babies; others go into early labor putting their child at risk of birth complications. In fact, car accidents are the leading cause of injury and death to both pregnant mothers and to their unborn children.

A recent study looked at the effect of car accidents on 878,546 women who gave birth in North Carolina between 2001 and 2008. Researchers looked at the effect that car crashes and vehicle safety features had on adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Three percent of the women who participated in the study had been in an accident during their pregnancy. These women had elevated rates of pre-term birth, miscarriage, placental abruption, and premature rupture of membranes. Those who had been in more than one accident had an even greater risk of complications.

The research team also looked at the effect of safety features such as seat belts and airbags have on pregnancy outcomes. Many women believe that it is not safe to use a seat belt while pregnant. However, women who were involved in accidents were three times more likely to miscarry if they were not buckled up at the time of the crash. Airbags also reduced the risk of complications.

The study was published in the November 2013 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

If you are pregnant, make sure you buckle up every time you get in the car. Position your seat belt so it crosses the lap, not the belly. Shoulder belts should be worn across the chest above the belly. See our article, “Safety Precautions for Pregnant Wisconsin Drivers,” for more safety tips. If you are involved in a Des Moines car accident while pregnant see a doctor immediately, even if you don’t think you are injured.


Jason F. Abraham
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Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham