Pregnancy comes with a lot of risks. One of the major risks associated with pregnancy is miscarriage. Below we will discuss various pregnancy risks and answer the question: can a car accident cause a miscarriage?
What is a Miscarriage?
A miscarriage (also referred to as “early pregnancy loss”) occurs when an unborn child dies in the uterus before the 20th week of pregnancy.
The following information provides some important miscarriage statistics:
- For women who know they are pregnant, about 10% to 15% of these pregnancies end in miscarriage
- Most miscarriages occur during the first trimester, before the 12th week of pregnancy
- About 1% to 5% of miscarriages occur during the second trimester (between 13 and 19 weeks)
- About half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage (the exact number is unknown, as a woman may suffer a miscarriage before she even realizes she is pregnant)
- About 1% of women experience repeat miscarriages (two or more miscarriages in a row)
- 75% of women who experience repeat miscarriages have an unknown cause
- 65% of women who experience repeat miscarriages go on to have successful pregnancies
- About 170,000 women per year experience a car crash while driving during their pregnancy
- An estimated 3,000 pregnancies are lost every year due to car crashes
General Pregnancy Risks
Can a car accident cause a miscarriage? It’s possible, but in addition to miscarriage, there are various risks associated with pregnancy which could negatively impact the health of a mother and her baby. Some of these risks include, but are not limited to:
1. High blood pressure
High blood pressure (also referred to as hypertension) describes the narrowing of the arteries which carry blood from the heart to the body, causing pressure to increase in the arteries. This can make it difficult for blood to reach the placenta, which is the source of oxygen and nutrients for the fetus. Additionally, reduced blood flow can result in the growth of the fetus, increasing the risk of preterm labor and preeclampsia (which will be discussed below). It is important to note that women who have high blood pressure prior to getting pregnant should ensure that it is monitored and controlled. High blood pressure that is developed during pregnancy is referred to as gestational hypertension. Gestational hypertension typically develops during the second half of the pregnancy and goes away after delivery.
2. Gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman who did not have diabetes prior to getting pregnant develops it during her pregnancy. Diabetes (also referred to as high blood sugar) describes a buildup of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin which removes the glucose from your blood and transports it to the cells in your body which use the glucose for energy. However, pregnancy hormones can cause the body to either not produce enough insulin or not process the insulin normally. If gestational diabetes is not controlled during pregnancy, it could lead to the birth of a large infant, which would require a C-section (which comes with its own risks to both the mother and the child).
Certain infections (for example, sexually-transmitted infections) can pose a serious risk to both the life of the mother and the baby. This is due to the fact that some infections can pass from the mother to the fetus as the fetus passes through the birth canal. Furthermore, some infections can also pass to the fetus during the pregnancy. Infections can have several devastating impacts, including pregnancy loss, low birth weight, stillbirth, newborn illness, birth defects, preterm delivery, and ectopic pregnancy (which results when an embryo implants outside of the uterus, usually within a fallopian tube).
Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition which can lead to premature delivery and death. The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown but does have several risk factors, which include:
- First time pregnancies
- Preeclampsia in a prior pregnancy
- Existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease
- Being 35 years of age or older
- Carrying two or more fetuses at one time
5. Preterm labor
Preterm labor is used to describe labor that occurs prior to the 37th week of pregnancy, or the later stage of the third trimester. If a fetus is born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is considered a premature birth and will be at an advanced risk for health problems.
Preterm labor is specifically problematic because the brain and lungs of the fetus typically do not develop fully until the 39th or 40th week of pregnancy. The risk factors for preterm labor include infections, developing a shortened cervix during pregnancy, and having previous preterm births.
A stillbirth refers to a lost pregnancy after the 20th week. Though the exact cause of stillbirths has not been determined, some risk factors include chromosomal abnormalities, placental problems, poor fetal growth, chronic health issues of the mother, and infection.
7. Hyperemesis gravidarum
Nausea is common during pregnancy, but hyperemesis gravidarum is a more severe form of long-lasting nausea that can result in dramatic weight loss, reduced appetite, dehydration, and feeling faint. The exact cause of hyperemesis gravidarum is unknown. Some women who are affected will need to be hospitalized so that they can receive vital fluids and nutrients during the pregnancy to ensure the healthy growth of the fetus.
8. Iron-deficiency anemia
Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when pregnant women do not get enough iron. Pregnant women need more iron than others because of the amount of blood they produce during pregnancy. Iron-deficiency anemia can result in shortness of breath, feeling faint, or becoming pale. Iron supplements may be recommended for affected women.
Can a Car Accident Cause a Miscarriage?
Motor vehicle crashes can have serious pregnancy complications, endangering the life of both the mother and the unborn baby. Even something like impact with an airbag or steering wheel can cause serious injuries that may result in fetal trauma. Some of these complications include, but are not limited to:
- Maternal death: If the mother is fatally wounded on impact in a car accident, there is unfortunately an extremely high risk of fetal death.
- Maternal shock: Car accidents can result in maternal shock (also known as hypovolemia). During hypovolemia, major blood or fluid loss results in the heart being unable to pump blood throughout the body. In order to preserve the life of the mother, the mother’s body classifies the fetus as nonessential and shunts blood from the uterus and other extremities. The infant mortality rate is about 80% for mothers that experience hypovolemia.
- Placental abruption: About 30% to 50% of traumatic injuries (such as car accidents) result in placental abruption, which occurs when the fetus prematurely detaches from the uterine wall, cutting off the flow of blood to the placenta.
- Uterine rupture: Uterine rupture is the spontaneous tearing of the uterus, which only occurs in about 1% of pregnancies but almost always results in the death of the fetus.
Symptoms to Look for After a Car Accident
If an expectant mother experiences pregnancy injuries in a motor vehicle accident, there are a few signs she should look for that may indicate that she is experiencing fetal injury. Whether the accident is just a fender bender or a more serious crash, if a pregnant woman experiences any of these symptoms, she should consult her health care provider right away. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Vaginal bleeding (this is the most common sign of a miscarriage)
- Cramping and abdominal pain
- Vaginal discharge of fluid and/or tissue
- No longer experiencing pregnancy symptoms (such as nausea)
- A noticeable change in the fetus’ movements
- Fevers and chills
- Consistent and severe headaches
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Swelling of the mother’s face or fingers
- Urgent or painful urination
What to Do if You are Pregnant and Injured in a Car Accident
If you’re an expectant mother who was in a car accident you may be asking yourself, can a car accident cause a miscarriage? Here’s what you should do first:
- Seek medical attention. The first thing you will want to do immediately after getting into a car accident is ensure that you and your baby are safe. If possible, call 911 and let them know that you were injured in an accident and that you are pregnant. Ask the operator to send the police and an ambulance if you are injured in any way. Do not underestimate the extent of your injuries. It is better to get medical care for any injuries to ensure that your baby has not been injured by the accident and is functioning normally.
- Gather information. Just like with any other accident, you should try to record as much information about the accident as possible. This will also be helpful for when you call 911 and your insurance company. Take pictures, write down any information you can remember, and speak to nearby witnesses.
- File an insurance claim. Once you ensure that you and your baby are safe, you should file an insurance claim with your insurance company.
- Consult a personal injury attorney. Typically, personal injury claims can be resolved by insurance companies. However, if you are having issues with the insurance claim process, a personal injury lawyer can help you deal with the insurance company. Additionally, if you choose not to accept the compensation the insurance company is offering, an car accident lawyer can help you build a strong personal injury case against the other driver.
Did You Suffer a Miscarriage Resulting From a Car Accident? Speak to an Illinois Personal Injury Attorney
If you suffered a miscarriage resulting from an auto accident and believe you may have a wrongful death claim, the Palermo Law Group is here to help. Our law firm will fight to hold the responsible party accountable and get you the compensation you deserve. You can schedule an initial free consultation appointment with our office here.