Being pregnant significantly increases a driver’s chances of having a serious car crash, research has shown.
During the middle period of pregnancy, the risk of being involved in a road accident requiring hospital treatment rose by 42 per cent, a Canadian study of more than 500,000 pregnant women found.
In the three years before getting pregnant, the women between them had an average of 177 crashes per month. The crash rate rose to 252 per month in the second trimester of pregnancy.
Statistically, about one in 50 pregnant women can expect to be involved in a serious car crash while at the wheel, say the scientists writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In their paper, the researchers mention the effects of “baby brain” – a mental “fog” said to be associated with pregnancy – but stop short of linking it directly to a heightened risk of car accidents.
They wrote: “Subjective disturbances during pregnancy are commonly reported in the obstetrical literature where absent-mindedness is denoted as ‘baby brain’ or other negative terms.
“Community surveys suggest about half of pregnant women complain of sporadic cognitive lapses; however, laboratory studies in this setting provide results with uncertain clinical relevance.”
The increased crash rate was “almost fully explained” by multiple-vehicle collisions in which the woman had been driving a car, the researchers said.
Lead researcher Dr Donald Redelmeier, from the University of Toronto, said: “Pregnant women often worry about air flights, scuba diving, hot tubs and other topics, yet individuals may overlook traffic crashes despite their greater health risks.
“These findings are not a reason to decide not to have children or a reason to stop driving; instead, the findings primarily emphasise the need to drive more carefully.”
He added: “Even a minor motor vehicle crash during pregnancy could lead to irreparable consequences for mother and child. These findings indicate that good prenatal care includes safe driving.”