The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in Canada conducted research involving 500,000 women over a five-year period and found that in the second trimester of pregnancy, the risk of being involved in a car crash rose from 4.55 instances per 1000 females to 6.47 instances per capita. The worst period of all was the fifth month of pregnancy, in which the instance rate rose to 7.66 per 1000.
Of the 507,262 women involved in the research, 6922 were involved in serious car crashes in the three years before falling pregnant, equating to 177 per month. That figure rose to 252 per month for the second trimester of pregnancy.
The risk was lowest in the year following the child's birth, which ICES said reflected the safer driving behaviours and attitudes of new parents.
Lead researcher Donald Redelmeier said the results don't mean pregnant females should be worried about getting behind the wheel - but that they should be aware that in the second trimester, most women will be affected by nausea, fatigue and distraction.
"We estimate that about one in 50 women will be involved in a crash of some severity during some month of the average pregnancy, i.e. a one in 50 absolute risk, making it more common than pre-eclampsia or blood clots during pregnancy," Redelmeier told the Leader Post.
“These findings do not mean pregnant women shouldn’t drive; in fact, men in this age group have higher risks of a motor vehicle crash. These findings are not a reason to decide not to have children or a reason to stop driving," Redelmeier said.
"Instead, the findings emphasise the need to drive more carefully. An awareness of the elevated risk during the second trimester of pregnancy does merit consideration for prenatal care,” added Redelmeier.