Pregnant women are usually careful to take special care with their diets and their lifestyle, but a recent Canadian study suggests they should also pay more attention to careful driving, especially during their second trimester.
As reported in the 12 May Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers from the University of Toronto examined the motor vehicle crash reports of over 500,000 women from the state of Ontario, Canada between 2006 and 2011. They wanted to see if accidents increased during pregnancy, so they calculated the serious accident rate—serious enough to require an emergency room visit—for the three years before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and then for one year after.
They found the rate of serious accidents increased 42% during the second trimester, but that during the first and third trimesters, the accident rate was not significantly higher. The second trimester—especially the early part of this trimester—was a more dangerous period no matter the age, education or income level of the woman, or season of the year.
The reason for this increase could be due to the so-called “pregnancy brain”, a period of foggy thinking as the pregnancy progresses. One of the study authors, Dr. Donald Redeimeier, notes “A normal pregnancy is associated with fatigue, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and distraction. All those changes could contribute to driver error.”
The study suggests that women should take extra care to drive more carefully when pregnant, follow speed limits, respect stop signs, and don’t use a cellphone. Another study author recommended “If you are tired and not feeling well one day, don’t drive”.
The other important issue is to use your seatbelts, even in the back seat. The seat and shoulder belt provides protection for both the driver and the developing baby, and airbags help too. If you have airbags, best to keep at least 25 cm between the steering wheel and the breastbone.
Finally, this increased accident rate does not mean pregnant women should not drive, or turn over the driving duties to her male partner or husband. Men of a similar age have in fact higher accident rates than pregnant women, even during the second trimester.
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