New study shows link between car crashes and adverse pregnancy outcomes

October 8, 2013

A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicates that motor vehicle crashes can be hazardous for pregnant women, especially if they are not wearing a seat belt when the accident occurs.

Trauma is a leading cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Blunt abdominal trauma is of particular concern to a pregnant woman and her fetus since it can directly and indirectly harm fetal organs as well as shared maternal and fetal organ systems. Car crashes are responsible for most injuries requiring hospitalization during ; however, little is known about the relationship between auto accidents and specific fetal outcomes.

The study, which is the largest retrospective state-based study of its kind, looked at data for 878,546 pregnant women aged 16-46 years who gave birth to a single infant in the state of North Carolina between 2001 and 2008. Using vital records and reports, investigators were able to study the association among , vehicle safety features, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Investigators focused on four pregnancy outcomes: , placental abruption, of the membranes, and stillbirth. They found that compared to women who were not involved in an auto accident, pregnant drivers had elevated rates of preterm birth, placental abruption, and premature rupture of the membranes after a single crash.

While previous studies had only looked at the link between one crash and adverse pregnancy outcomes, this new study also looked at women who had been involved in multiple motor vehicle collisions during their pregnancies. Following a second or subsequent crash, investigators found pregnant women had more highly elevated rates of preterm birth, placental abruption, premature rupture of the membranes and stillbirth. The investigators also found that the rates of these unfavorable outcomes increased as the number of crashes increased.

Regardless of the number of crashes, stillbirth rates were elevated following accidents involving unbelted pregnant drivers. "Non-seat belt use and the lack of airbags were associated with elevated rates of selected adverse pregnancy outcomes," explains lead investigator Catherine J. Vladutiu, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health. "Most notably, the stillbirth rate following a crash involving an unbelted pregnant driver was almost three times as high as the stillbirth rate following a crash involving a belted pregnant driver."

While this new study offers greater insight than existing reports, more population-based studies are necessary to increase understanding of the effect of multiple crashes, seatbelts, and airbags on pregnancy outcomes.

"This study highlights the importance of crashes during pregnancy and their possible adverse effects on . Clinicians should be aware of these effects and should advise about the risk of being in a crash and the long-term consequences that crashes can have on their pregnancies," concludes Dr. Vladutiu. "Given the associations that were observed, a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding crashes during pregnancy is needed to develop effective strategies for prevention."

Explore further: Smoking + asthma + pregnant = a dangerous combination

More information: "Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Following Motor Vehicle Crashes," by Catherine J. Vladutiu, PhD; Stephen W. Marshall, PhD; Charles Poole, ScD; Carri Casteel, PhD; M. Kathryn Menard, MD; and Harold B. Weiss, PhD, is available online as of October 8, 2013 at http://www.ajpmonline.org and in print in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 45, Issue 5 (November 2013), DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.06.018

Related Stories

Smoking + asthma + pregnant = a dangerous combination

September 5, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—New research from the University of Adelaide has shown for the first time that pregnant women who smoke as well as having asthma are greatly increasing the risk of complications for themselves and their ...

Good asthma control during pregnancy is vital says new review

September 6, 2013
Good asthma management during pregnancy is vital during pregnancy as poor asthma control can have adverse effects on maternal and fetal outcomes, says a new review published today in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (TOG).

Study shows reduced risk of preterm birth for pregnant women vaccinated during pandemic flu

February 19, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Pregnant women who received the H1N1 influenza vaccine during the 2009 pandemic were less likely to have premature babies, and their babies weighed more on average.

Working while pregnant won't harm the baby, study finds

March 25, 2013
(HealthDay)—Working during pregnancy does not increase a woman's risk of having a preterm or low birth-weight baby, a new study found.

Car crashes overlooked killer of unborn babies

March 12, 2013
Motor vehicle crashes involving mothers-to-be account for more than half of all New Zealand's foetal deaths due to maternal injury, new University of Otago research reveals.

Recommended for you

Study finds 275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012

July 24, 2017
U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, ...

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.