Nov 11

Guest Post: Pregnant Women at Risk of Car Accidents

Pregnant Women at Risk of Car Accidents

Technologically superior car seats, or infant seats, will protect children in the event of a car crash. But what can a pregnant woman do to protect her unborn child if she is involved in an accident?

Before the economic meltdown and the dissolution of the American car industry, car safety engineers spent a great deal of time developing a computerized crash test model to protect such women. It was, and remains, profoundly important research. Estimates suggest that the accident fatality rate for unborn children is about four times as high as that for infants and children under the age of four. Part of the reason for these inflated figures is the fact that pregnant women work (and drive) much longer into their pregnancies today than they did even a few decades ago, thanks to emancipated employer programs that allow women to work as long as they are comfortable doing so.

Working on computerized models derived from algorithmic formulas which insurance adjusters use to set guidelines for insurance rates, researchers at both Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech for short) and Wake Forest University in North Carolina – in cooperation with Ford Motor Company – are developing scenarios that allow them to calibrate how crash forces affect both pregnant women and their fetuses.

Once completed, this study will be one of the first in-depth looks at the way crash momentum affects prenatal safety and development. According to Virginia Tech researcher Stefan Duma, former studies have approached the problem haphazardly. Even more intensive research is unlikely to find the silver bullet. In the meantime, Duma adds, the auto industry will likely have to wait 15 years for the development of truly effective safety devices for pregnant women and their unborn children. This in spite of a crash test dummy that simulates pregnancy by providing a fluid filled abdomen to calibrate the pressure exerted on that fluid during a crash, In most cases, the greatest danger during a crash is placental abruption, or the placenta tearing away from the uterine wall, which both feeds the fetus and removes waste. This creates an even greater risk for the mother (who may hemorrhage) and her baby (which may be cut off from the blood/oxygen supply it needs to survive).

Two measures may make crashes a little less lethal. First, continue wearing a seatbelt, even if it is a little uncomfortable, but put the belt part low over the pelvis rather than the waist area. Second, sit as far back from the steering column as possible so that less braking momentum will be transferred to the placental area.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which estimates that 32,800 pregnant women are involved in car crashes every year, also offers a few tips for a safe pregnancy while driving. In addition to the advisories above (use seatbelts; sit back from the steering wheel) mothers-to-be should:
Be a passenger rather than a driver, as often as possible, especially as your pregnancy progresses.

Tilt the steering wheel toward your sternum, not your abdomen
Avoid leaning forward, to give the airbag time to deploy properly in the event of an accident. Wear both a shoulder and a lap belt, the first snug around your collarbone and across your chest; never run it behind your arm or your back
If you are in a collision, call your OB/GYN and arrange for an appointment even if you don’t feel you have been hurt. Placental abruption happens just like that – abruptly – and can occur anywhere from hours to days after your accident without a single warning sign

Ford had pledged to develop its 2011 vehicle model manual with specific instructions for safety when pregnant, but so far has done so only with the Fiesta. Volvo has done a slightly better job, providing a manual which briefly covers safety strategies for pregnant women (but has a great deal more about child safety in the event of a crash).

Bio: SimplyLili is a PhD student in Social Psychology, and the eccentric author of Simply Lili Blog; created to disperse knowledge on a plethora of topics in a minimalist and humorous way. She is a self-proclaimed nerd and her 3 fave things are SEO, copywriting, and pugs.
Twitter: @SimplyLili1717