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May 12, 2014 02:27 PM EDT

Pregnancy Significantly Increases Risk Of Serious Car Accidents

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Women have a higher risk of getting into a serious car crash when they are expecting than they do in the years before or afterward, according to a recent study USA Today reported.

Canadian researchers found that pregnancy is associated with a significant risk of a serious car crash requiring emergency medical care during the second trimester.

"Pregnant women often worry about air flights, scuba diving, hot tubs and other topics in maternal health, yet individuals may overlook traffic crashes despite their greater health risks," Dr. Donald Redelmeier, lead author of the study and a researcher with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), said in a statement.

For the study, researchers recruited more than 507,000 pregnant women and looked at whether common features of pregnancy, such as nausea, fatigue, insomnia, and distraction, could contribute to human error and the risk of a traffic crash requiring emergency medical care.

During the 3 years before pregnancy, the women had 6,922 crashes (177 per month). During the second trimester, the women, as drivers, had 757 crashes (252 per month). The elevated risk during the middle of pregnancy equaled a 42 percent increase in serious traffic crashes from baseline.

Researchers said that statistically, about 1 in 50 pregnant women will be involved in a motor vehicle crash at some point during pregnancy.

"The increase was almost fully explained by multiple-vehicle crashes in which the woman had been driving a car (not a truck or other miscellaneous vehicle) and had a high triage urgency,"  Dr. Jon Barrett, co-author of the study and chief of maternal fetal medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, said in a statement. "Almost all traffic crashes could be prevented by a small change in driver behavior. The absolute risks among pregnant women, however, are still lower than among men of this age."

The researchers did not see similar increases among women who were pedestrians or passengers nor increases in the number of falls or risky behaviors.

The findings were recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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