Having a car accident while pregnant can be terrifying, even if it’s only a fender bender. You’re probably already anxious about keeping baby safe and having a healthy delivery. Now you’re worried about the dangers to your baby because of the crash.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to tell if an unborn baby has been injured by a car crash. A fetus can sustain serious trauma, even when the mother is barely hurt. Here are some things you should know about being in an accident while pregnant, and some important steps you should take.
Risks to Your Baby from a Car Accident While Pregnant
All in all, a mother’s uterus is a pretty safe place for a baby. The placenta offers protections 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 a child.
A car wreck might cause a woman to go into labor early. A baby born before the pregnancy’s 37th week is considered premature. The baby has not had time to develop fully, causing a number of possible medical issues.
A baby born too soon has a good chance of growing into a healthy child. But premature birth can sometimes result in birth defects that are present for the rest of the child’s life, such as learning disabilities, heart defects, deafness, or blindness.
If the mother is seriously hurt, the baby could sustain life-threatening internal injuries, such as perforated organs, internal bleeding, or head trauma similar to “shaken baby syndrome.”
If a crash introduces foreign bodies, such as glass, into the womb, the unborn baby can develop an infection. If it isn’t detected, the infection can get into the bloodstream, causing a dangerous condition called septic shock.
The placenta carries blood to the fetus. Placental abruption happens when it detaches from the uterus, depriving the baby of oxygen and nutrients. It can cause the mother to go into early labor or miscarry.
An extremely violent impact during a car crash can result in shock, extreme blood loss, or organ failure. An expectant mother experiencing this type of trauma to her body may suffer a miscarriage.
(For a more technical medical paper on car accidents and harm to fetuses, see “Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Following Motor Vehicle Crashes” from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.)
Protecting Your Child’s Future
If you’re in an accident, you should remain calm and not assume the worst. In most minor accidents, the baby will be fine, but even if there is a problem, panicking will not make the situation better. In fact, not thinking clearly and delaying what you need to do might make things worse.
Injuries your baby might sustain as a result of a car accident while you are pregnant could be life-altering for both of you, especially if they are not detected and treated right away. Your baby could suffer from chronic conditions that will require medical care for years, if not the rest of his or her life.
If the car crash was due to another driver’s negligence, you deserve to receive a fair settlement to help take care of your child’s needs. 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.
In the unfortunate event you’re in an accident while you’re expecting, there are some things that you must do right away:
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, you can call the local police department’s non-emergency line. They will either send a police officer or give you 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, you will want a 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 that you are pregnant. 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.
Knowing your status will help these professionals determine the next steps to get you the special help you need. They may also act with a bit more urgency and compassion in providing assistance.
3. Get Medical Help
Obviously, if you’ve suffered serious injuries, you’ll be taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital emergency room. They will make sure you are stable, and then check on the baby.
Some signs should never be ignored after a car accident while pregnant, as they could be signs of trauma to the fetus:
- Abdominal pain
- Bleeding or spotting
- 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. As an expectant mother, it’s a good idea to get checked out immediately, especially if a first responder is on site. If the crash was just a fender bender, you may decide to wait and see your own doctor. But make sure to call for an appointment right away and explain that you were in an accident. Your baby could still suffer an injury, even if all you have are a few bumps and bruises.
4. Gather Information and File an Insurance Claim
Even with a minor accident, you 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 you move 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.
Call your insurance company’s claims department and let them know what happened. Providing them with the basic information about the crash is typically all they need to open a file for your car accident claim.
5. Contact an Attorney
When you have a car accident, it is a good idea to contact a lawyer who specializes in car accidents. This kind of attorney can help you deal with insurance companies for car accident claims, which themselves can be confusing and frustrating. They will help you reach a settlement for damages to your car and any medical bills for you and your baby. (If you live in Missouri or Illinois, it helps to know how claims work in those states, too.)
You may not show any signs of being hurt, but your baby could be at risk. What may seem like a routine insurance claim could get much more complicated if your baby is hurt. A lawyer can be by your side through each step of the process, ensuring you get fair compensation for your child’s injuries.