Expectant mothers and their babies face unique risks in a vehicle accident. If you are pregnant — or a family member or friend is expecting — understanding the special car accident injury risks for pregnant women helps you identify the signs of an injury if a crash occurs. You can take steps to minimize the risk as well.
Types of Auto Accident Injuries for Pregnant Women and Their Babies
Expectant mothers focus on many different ways to keep their babies healthy and safe. One often-forgotten risk is that even a seemingly minor car accident can create danger to both the mother and the unborn baby.
Injuries from a car crash can cause pregnancy complications for the mother or injuries to the unborn baby. Sometimes, the baby can suffer injuries even when the mother does not. There are several different types of injury risks for pregnant women and their babies.
When an accident injures a woman fewer than 20 weeks into her pregnancy, a miscarriage can occur if the stomach or uterus is punctured, or if the woman goes into cardiac arrest and stops breathing. In some cases, an accident can cause a partial miscarriage, in which part of the fetal tissue is expelled from the uterus.
Placental abruption is one of the most common types of injuries that occur when a pregnant woman is in an accident. It is an extremely serious and dangerous condition, which causes the placenta to detach from the uterus either partially or completely.
This injury commonly results from the mother experiencing an injury to her abdomen. The abruption can lead to early labor and birth, blood loss for the mother, low birth weight for the baby, and other issues. It also can threaten the life of the fetus in some cases.
Premature Labor and Birth
The severe stress on a pregnant woman’s body caused by an accident can trigger early labor and premature birth. Depending on how early the baby is born, premature birth can cause serious health problems for the baby and necessitate weeks or months in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Injuries in an accident can turn a normal pregnancy into one characterized as high risk. If that happens, both mother and baby may face health issues and require a higher and more intense level of medical care for the duration of the pregnancy.
Injuries to the Baby
Even if the mother suffers only minor injuries, an accident can injure the unborn baby. The sudden deceleration that occurs in an accident can even cause brain damage to an unborn child. This type of injury is known as a coup-contrecoup brain injury. The injury is similar to what occurs in shaken baby syndrome, in which sudden jostling causes the baby’s brain to hit against the skull.
What To Do After an Accident
If you in an accident while you are pregnant — or if you are with someone who is pregnant when an accident occurs — the most critical priority is getting medical attention. If emergency medical treatment does not occur at the scene, you should stay keenly alert to any signs that you or the baby suffered injuries, such as:
- Bleeding, fluid, or other discharge
- Headaches or pain in the abdomen
- Vomiting, fever, or chills
- Faintness or dizziness
- Changes in the baby’s movement
- Any other type of abnormal pain or physical signs
Even in the absence of any signs or symptoms, you should schedule a visit with your doctor to review the details of the accident to ensure that you and your baby suffered no harm.
If you or your baby received serious injuries in an accident, and someone else caused the accident, you should contact an experienced auto accident lawyer as soon as you can. Whether you were driving or riding as a passenger when the accident occurred, your lawyer will advise you about recovering compensation for your injuries and your baby’s injuries.
Vehicle Safety Precautions for Pregnant Women
Despite the car accident injury risks for pregnant women, it’s not realistic to even suggest that you stop driving or riding in a car. However, there are precautions you can take to make your travels safer.
Ride as a Passenger When Possible
One of the greatest risks to a pregnant woman in a vehicle is the steering wheel. It is safer to be a passenger than a driver. The rear middle seat is the safest spot, as long as it has a shoulder harness seat belt.
Friends and family members can play an important supportive role in keeping expectant mothers safe in a vehicle — especially by doing the driving when possible. For a pregnant woman, traveling as a passenger always is much safer than driving.
If you do drive, there are ways to protect yourself and your baby.
Adjust the Steering Wheel
Move your seat as far away from the steering wheel as you comfortably can. Try to have your breastbone at least ten inches away from the steering wheel.
Tilt the steering wheel toward your breastbone, away from your stomach. If the airbag deploys, it won’t hit your abdomen directly.
Use a Seat Belt and Shoulder Harness
Wear a full lap-shoulder belt, not just a lap belt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that pregnant women wear the lap part of the safety belt under their abdomen, across the upper thighs, and as low as possible over hips.
Never wear the belt over or above your baby belly. Make sure your shoulder harness goes across your chest, not behind your back or under your arm.
For the best protection, the NHTSA recommends wearing your seat belt and shoulder harness even if your vehicle has airbags. Don’t consider disabling your airbags. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the combination of seat belts and airbags offers the best protection for a pregnant woman. The benefits of using airbags outweigh any risks.
Consider How You Feel
If you are feeling tired, nauseous, or otherwise less than optimal, consider postponing your trip. If you can’t do that, have a snack, drink water, or rest briefly before you leave. The better you feel, the more attentive you will be.
Concentrate fully on driving. Avoid distractions and be extra cautious, especially in bad weather. Don’t be tempted to eat, drink, or use your phone. If you need to do something else, pull over and take a break. Distracted driving is dangerous and causes accidents.
Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Auto Accident Attorney
Jeffrey Brooke is a respected Virginia Beach attorney who dedicates his personal injury practice to helping injured victims and their families. If you or your baby received injuries in an accident, The Jeff Brooke Team is here to help. We always focus on your and your family’s interests and rights and aggressively pursue your case to get the full compensation you deserve. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.