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Even Minor Traffic Accidents Can Raise a Woman's Odds for Birth Complications

TUESDAY, March 21, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- “Baby on Board” warning stickers apply even when there's a mom-to-be in the vehicle, a new study argues.

Pregnant women involved in traffic collisions are at heightened risk of potentially serious birth complications, even if the wreck only involves minor injuries, researchers report.

These complications can include dislodgement of the placenta, very heavy bleeding, and the need for a cesarean section, according to a new Taiwanese study published March 20 in the journal Injury Prevention.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of trauma during pregnancy, with some reports suggesting they account for up to 70% of injuries to pregnant women, researchers said in background notes.

To better assess the risk wrecks pose to pregnancies, the researchers analyzed births, insurance claims and deaths registered in Taiwan between 2007 and 2016.

During that time, nearly 20,900 births were recorded among about 20,740 women involved in traffic collisions, researchers found.

Each woman was matched with four other randomly selected women who were the same age and at the same stage of pregnancy, but hadn’t been involved in a car crash.

Compared with their peers, women involved in crashes were:

  • 31% more likely to experience prolonged contractions

  • 51% more likely to experience dislodgement of the placenta (placental abruption)

  • 19% more likely to bleed heavily before birth

  • 5% more likely to require a C-section.

Even women involved with minor injuries were at higher risk of birthing problems including placental abruption (70% more likely), induced labor (54% more likely), and prolonged contractions (34% more likely).

Women more seriously injured were worse off, researchers found.

Women severely injured in a traffic collision were four times more likely to suffer from placental abruption, 61% more likely to need a C-section, and 80% more likely to deliver prematurely, results showed.

And women who sought emergency care within three days of a crash were 77% more likely to experience placental abruption, while a woman who needed hospitalization was nearly six times more likely to develop the condition.

In placental abruption, the placenta separates from the uterus. It typically happens in the third trimester, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and risks the life of both baby and mother.

Women riding scooters in a wreck had significantly higher risks of complications compared to women who crashed in a car, ranging from 6% increased risk of C-section to 83% increased risk of placental abruption, researchers added.

“These findings reinforce the fact that health care workers should be aware of these effects and consider providing pregnant women with educational materials about road traffic safety and choice of vehicle while traveling during pregnancy,” researchers led by Chung-Yi Li said in a journal news release. Li is a professor at the National Cheng Kung University’s Department of Public Health in Tainan City, Taiwan.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic has more about placental abruption.

SOURCE: Injury Prevention, news release, March 20, 2023

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