5 Things to Do Now If You Are In a Car Accident While Pregnant
A car accident is traumatic no matter what—imagine how scary it is to have even a fender bender while pregnant. Expectant mothers are already thinking a lot about the health and well-being of their unborn child. A car crash adds more worry because of the potential dangers to both mother and baby.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to tell if a fetus has been injured by a car crash. An unborn baby can sustain serious trauma in the womb, even when the mother is barely hurt. For this reason, those expecting should take extra care if they are in even a minor accident.
Acting fast after an accident is important for the unborn child’s physical well-being. It can also ensure that the driver who is at fault is held liable for the financial burden that serious injuries may have on the child’s family.
Here are some things to know about being in an accident while pregnant, and some important steps to take.
Car Accident Trauma and Pregnancy
The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a study titled Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Following Motor Vehicle Crashes, stating that auto accidents are responsible for most hospitalized trauma during pregnancy. It goes on to add that “Trauma during pregnancy is a leading cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. In the U.S., it has been estimated that up to 7% of all pregnancies are complicated by traumatic injury.”
Due to a lack of more recent data (the stat is from 2012), today’s percentage is unknown. This is partly because most state motor vehicle crash reports do not report the pregnancy status of victims, and pregnancy records do not typically include a patient’s crash history.
But one thing is clear: Car accidents during pregnancy are linked to elevated rates of negative outcomes for the baby such as preterm birth, stillbirth, pregnancy complications, and birth defects.
What Can Happen to an Unborn Baby in a Car Accident During Pregnancy
All in all, a mother’s uterus is a pretty safe place for a baby. The placenta offers protection from everyday jostling. But the type of impact that can occur in an accident when a mother is pregnant can lead to serious complications for the child and mother alike.
The risks often depend on how far along the mother is. Typically, during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the fetus is fairly safe. While this is good news, there is a chance that harm can be done as a result of an accident before the mother is aware she is pregnant. For this reason, it is important to let the doctor know about any crashes that took place in the first weeks of pregnancy, so they can watch for any complications.
As the pregnancy progresses into the second and third trimesters, the risks from a crash increase. The following conditions are all possible with a car accident during pregnancy:
A car wreck might cause a woman to go into labor early. A baby born before the pregnancy’s 37th week is considered premature and may not be fully developed. This alone can result in a low birth weight and a number of medical issues.
The impact of a crash or extremely premature birth can result in various birth defects. Babies born before the 28-week mark, for example, may lack the ability to eat or breathe on their own. They may also suffer from cognitive impairment, learning disabilities, heart defects, deafness, blindness, or other long-term disabilities that will be present for the rest of the child’s life.
If the mother is seriously hurt, the baby could sustain life-threatening injuries too. Internal injuries such as perforated organs or internal bleeding may occur. There have been cases when a serious car accident while pregnant caused brain damage to a fetus. Even a sudden stop in a car while pregnant can result in head trauma similar to “shaken baby syndrome.”
The impact of a serious crash often introduces foreign bodies such as glass or metal into the mother’s body. If these enter the womb, the unborn baby could develop an infection. If left undetected and untreated, the infection can eventually get into the bloodstream, causing a dangerous condition called septic shock.
The placenta carries blood and nutrients to the fetus. Placental abruption happens when the placenta tears and detaches from the uterus. This is very serious as the oxygen supply can be cut off from the baby. Often the mother will go into early labor. There is also a chance she will miscarry.
Miscarriage and Stillbirth
An extremely violent impact during a car crash can result in shock, extreme blood loss, or organ failure for the mother or baby. Unfortunately, the baby may not survive. An expectant mother experiencing this type of trauma to her body may suffer a miscarriage (loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy) or stillbirth (loss after the 20th-week mark.)
Protecting Your Child’s Future
Injuries sustained as a result of a car accident during pregnancy can be life-altering for both the mother and the baby. A fetus is completely vulnerable and can suffer from injuries in the womb that lead to chronic conditions that will require medical care for years, if not for the rest of his or her life.
In addition to emergency care at the scene of the crash, a mother’s pregnancy might be classified as “high risk” due to the trauma. This can mean additional medical needs and monitoring to ensure the fetus is developing properly and that the pregnancy can go to term. In some cases, the doctor may recommend complete bed rest, meaning the mother will be unable to work and may need help caring for her home and family.
These results of a car accident during pregnancy can mean expensive medical bills and lost wages, even before the baby is born. Any injuries sustained by the child must also be paid for. Depending on the severity, this could be very expensive. A permanently disabled child will need a lifetime of treatment and specialized care.
If the car crash was due to another driver’s negligence, they are liable for these expenses. The incident should not place an undue burden on their family, either financially or emotionally. An innocent child deserves to receive fair and full compensation for their injuries. In addition to medical expenses, a claim might also include compensation for pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
Remember These Steps In a Car Accident During Pregnancy
In the unfortunate event of an accident, expectant mothers should remain calm and not assume the worst. In most minor accidents, like a fender bender while pregnant, the baby will be fine. There are some things, however, that should happen as soon as possible after a crash:
1. Call Local Police
If the accident is serious, call 911. Dispatchers can send police officers and an ambulance, if necessary. The police will assess the situation and possibly issue tickets for negligent driving.
For minor accidents without visible injuries, emergency first responders are not necessary. Instead, call the local police department’s non-emergency line. They will either send a police officer or give instructions about what to do next.
The important thing is to make sure the authorities know about the crash. Even with a minor accident, if there is any damage to the cars involved, a police report is a necessary record of the incident for an insurance claim.
2. Be Sure to Explain that You’re Expecting
Whether it’s the 911 dispatcher, the police, EMTs, or later your insurance representative, let them know about the pregnancy, and what week it is. Emergency personnel may follow different protocols to ensure the health and safety of an expectant mother and her baby. Pregnancy may also limit the types of medications they can administer.
3. Get Medical Help
Accident victims should never turn down the opportunity to be examined by a first responder if one is present. This is especially true if pregnant. Those with serious injuries will be taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital emergency room. There they will make sure the mother is stable and then check on the baby.
If the crash was just a fender bender, a victim may decide to wait and see her own doctor. Be sure to call for an appointment right away and explain that there was an accident.
Some signs should never be ignored after a car accident while pregnant, as they could be signs of trauma to the fetus:
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Bleeding, spotting, or fluid discharge
- Loss of consciousness or feeling light-headed
- A change in the baby’s movement
- Severe headache
- Swelling of the fingers or face
- Persistent vomiting
Sometimes after a car accident, a person may feel okay and refuse medical help, only to have pain show up later. If any of the above situations occur, see a doctor immediately. Even if a mother only has a few bumps and bruises, a baby can still suffer a serious injury.
4. Gather Information and File an Insurance Claim
Even with a minor accident, victims should document everything. Exchange names, addresses, and insurance information with the other driver. If there are any witnesses who can help verify what happened, gather their contact information too. If possible, take pictures of the cars’ positions and any damage before moving them off the road. All of this information, along with the police report, is important in filing an insurance claim, and in the event any lawsuits are filed later.
Because the extent of an unborn baby’s trauma may not be detected until later, or even after birth, it could be hard to prove that serious medical issues are the result of the accident. The details of the crash, as well as records of immediate treatment, can serve as evidence in case there are medical complications.
5. Contact an Attorney
After any accident, it is wise to contact a personal injury law firm such as Hipskind & McAninch. Car accident attorneys will assess the case with a free consultation, and file a claim with the insurance company. They can help reach a settlement for damages to the victim’s vehicle and any medical expenses. And if a lawsuit is necessary, they will represent the injured.
Help for You and Your Child
An expectant mother and her unborn baby are particularly vulnerable to harm during a car accident. If you are in a crash that is not your fault, you both deserve the best possible care.
At Hipskind & McAninch we will stay by your side through each step of the process, ensuring that you and your child receive full and fair compensation for your personal injuries.
Updated from original post from August, 2019.