Car crashes are an overlooked top killer of unborn babies, according to a New Zealand study performed by the University of Otago’s Injury Prevention Research Unit (IPRU). The team looked at pregnant mothers who were hurt badly enough to lose their babies in accidents between 1997 and 2008. Of the 41 deaths they examined, 21 of the babies were killed because of an automobile accident. That’s more than half, and some of those deaths might have been preventable.
The eyes of the world were focused on an unfolding tragedy earlier this month when a Brooklyn couple was struck and killed in their taxi by a hit-and-run driver. Doctors worked swiftly to deliver the baby alive by emergency C-section at nearby Bellevue Hospital.
The baby boy weighed only about four pounds when he was delivered, and he ultimately died as a result of his serious injuries.
Although that 21-year-old mother was not driving, the research suggested that moms-to-be can cut their risk by cutting back on unnecessary driving. Hank Weiss, director of the IPRU, noted that New Zealand women in the child-bearing years from age 15-39 had increased their annual driving distance by about 40 percent in the interval from the early 90s to the mid 2000s.
Since busy pregnant mothers probably have limited ability to make use of a man’s advice to drive less — yes, folks, that might be sarcasm — it might be more practical to make sure you are wearing seat belts and that you are using them properly. One way to protect your unborn baby is to properly adjust the shoulder harness and attach it to the seat belt at the hip, rather than placing it right over the stomach where it could impact the baby in the event of an accident.
There will always be accidents, but, with a little awareness, mothers can reduce the chance of losing their unborn baby in a car crash.
[photo courtesy Adam E. Moreira and Wikipedia Commons]