Pregnancy is the most wonderful time of many women’s lives, but the fears of becoming a new parent start developing long before the baby is born. Every mother’s worst nightmare is learning that the baby is unhealthy or has suffered an injury while still in the womb.
One common concern reported by pregnant women and their partners is the potential consequences of a car accident on fetal development. While some expectant mothers may prefer to avoid driving as much as possible during pregnancy, others may not be able to avoid getting behind the wheel, especially during the first few months, before maternity leave offers them the luxury of cozying up indoors and nesting.
If you’re driving while pregnant, you’re probably extremely aware of potential dangers and more fearful of the road than ever before. Even if you’re a good driver, it’s wise to be extra cautious and navigate risky situations the way you would if your baby was already strapped into a car seat in the back.
Maternal death is the leading cause of fetal fatalities in car accidents. Wearing a properly fastened seat belt is the best way to avoid being seriously injured in a car crash. If you always make sure to wear your seat belt, it’s statistically unlikely that either you or your baby will be harmed. However, if the worst case scenario happens to you, here are the steps you should take.
Err on the side of caution
Before you were pregnant, you might have brushed off a minor fender bender. But pregnant women are advised by physicians to seek medical attention immediately, no matter how serious the accident or how far along they are. Any blow to the abdomen during pregnancy can cause harm to the fetus, and in many cases, vehicular accidents affect this area of the body.
The womb, fortunately, provides a protective barrier for both the fetus and placenta during pregnancy, but any sudden jolt or impact can potentially dislocate the placenta from the uterus in what is called a “placental abruption.” Abruptions can lead to serious side effects, including miscarriage, premature delivery, and hemorrhage, but they often have no symptoms.
This is why taking action immediately is so important. Even if you feel fine, medical professionals suggest that you head to the emergency room as soon as possible to be evaluated. Once your condition is stable, you will undergo an obstetric exam and ultrasound to ensure no harm has been done to the fetus or the placenta.
Be aware of later-onset symptoms
Once you have been discharged and sent home, you should still be wary of potential symptoms arising in the days after the accident. Your gynecologist will advise you to watch out for any vaginal bleeding, unusual fluid or discharge, or sudden abdominal pain. If your baby is usually active and moving, and suddenly stops, you should seek emergency care right away.
Premature labor is common after car accidents. If you begin to experience contractions after being sent home from the hospital, it’s possible you are going into labor prematurely.
Babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy are considered “preemies,” and the closer they are to their due date, the likelier they are to be born healthy. Those born before the 32nd week may suffer complications. While a car accident can kick-start labor if you’re already close to your due date, preterm labor may result in fetal death.
Finally, get a lawyer. Once you’re sure that you and baby are both out of the woods, call a car accident attorney and learn whether you are entitled to compensation for your injuries.