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Can a Car Accident While Pregnant Lead to Birth Defects?

— April 29, 2022

While implemented for the safety of passengers, unfortunately, both airbags and seatbelts have proven to be extremely dangerous to a fetus.

With automobiles already being one of the leading causes of injuries and death among the populace, as shown by it’s no surprise that they also pose a threat to pregnant individuals. Unfortunately, even minor car accidents can result in birth injuries and defects that wouldn’t have arisen without the crash, with devastating vehicle accidents causing even worse pregnancy complications. According to the National Library of Medicine, more than 200,000 pregnant individuals are in reported car crashes a year, with 1,500 to 5,000 fetal losses being attributed to such accidents.

Risks to Your Unborn Baby After a Car Accident

Premature Birth

Mother comforting premature baby
Mother comforting premature baby; image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay,

Unfortunately, on a yearly basis, more than 500,000 babies experience premature birth, which can lead to a number of other infant health issues, some of which can be fatal. Some premature births, however, are not just by chance, and as described by birth injury lawyers at Buchanan Firm can be traced back as a direct result from a physically traumatic event, such as a car accident. Such an ordeal puts mental and physical stress on the mother which can cause early labor and birth. 

Placental Abruption

Car accident lawyers at Hanson & Mouri detail the toll a car accident can take on a person, and state that even minor accidents can have a dramatic impact on your life. This applies especially to pregnant women. Placental abruption, the act of the placenta prematurely detaching from the uterus before birth, is considered the most common type of serious injury that can result from a car accident involving a pregnant person, serious or minor. Placental abruption, in serious car accidents, occurs in 30-50% of women. The reason it’s so common is because of the toll the impact takes on your body when hit by another car. The force is enough to rip the placenta away from the uterine wall.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

When a car is hit with a significant impact, the whiplash from the crash can cause the baby to suffer what’s called “shaken baby syndrome.” The fetus is capable of being jostled around, thrown backwards and forwards in the womb several times. This can cause life-long damage to the fetus in many ways; brain damage, trauma to the head, disfiguration of the shoulders, etc. 


Although according to the Birth Injury Help Center, minor-impact car accidents aren’t likely to harm a fetus during pregnancy, the same can’t be said for serious vehicle collisions. While implemented for the safety of passengers, unfortunately, both airbags and seatbelts have proven to be extremely dangerous to a fetus, as direct force on a pregnant woman’s abdomen can be devastating. Furthermore, any other injuries and impacts that the mother experiences during the crash can also 

Maternal Shock

Hypovolemic shock can occur when the woman is badly injured. When a large amount of blood volume is lost, the blood in the body rushes to the organs, leaving the fetus unattended. The mortality rate for a fetus in this condition is over 80%.

Fetal Hypoxia

As described by MDPI, Fetal Hypoxia occurs when there is a lack of oxygen available to the fetus, that in turn, negatively impacts overall fetal development. Fetal Hypoxia can occur for several reasons, including prolapse or occlusion of the umbilical cord or placental infarction, both of which can result during the impact of a car accident. 

Driving Safety for Pregnant Women

The biggest and most important thing to remember while pregnant, is that if a car accident does occur, immediate medical attention is a must. Get to an ER as soon as you can, and see your obstetrician at their first opening. Even if you may not be able to be able to tell immediately if something’s wrong, or you think that everything is okay, it’s crucial to be as thorough and safe as possible. Fetal injuries aren’t always easy to catch, especially without a doctor, so a professional examination is a must after such a traumatic event. 

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