What Are the Effects of a Car Accident During Pregnancy?

Clayton T. Hasbrook

Written by Clayton T. Hasbrook. Last modified on February 19, 2024

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Car Accident Effects During PregnancyPreparing to bring your baby son or daughter into the world is a joyous time for any new parent.  But when a pregnant mother is injured in a car accident in Oklahoma City, the effects on the developing fetus can be debilitating or even fatal.

Pregnancy Complications Arising from Car Accidents

A wealth of medical research has been dedicated to understanding how car accidents affect pregnant women and their developing babies. A pivotal study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine evaluated the relationship between car accidents and negative pregnancy outcomes, revealing several critical complications:

  • Placental AbruptionPlacental Abruption: This serious condition involves the detachment of the placenta from the uterus, threatening the fetus’s life and development. The study indicated an uptick in placental abruption incidents following car accidents.

    For example, the study noted 175 cases of placental abruption after a single collision, with an increased rate from 5 to 6.7 per 100,000 pregnancy days post-accident. A second crash saw this rate jump to 16.7 per 100,000.

  • Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM)Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM): The premature breaking of the amniotic sac can lead to preterm delivery and a heightened risk of fetal death. The research showed a rise in PROM cases after car accidents, with rates climbing from 16.9 to 22.1 per 100,000 pregnancy days after one crash and 31.8 per 100,000 after a second.
  • Preterm BirthPreterm Birth: Deliveries before the 37th week of pregnancy are a major concern, as they are the leading cause of infant mortality and can result in long-term disabilities. The study observed a significant increase in preterm births post-accident, with rates escalating from 97.8 to 121.6 per 100,000 pregnancy days after one crash and to 157.5 after a second.

The Dangers of Internal Bleeding After a Car Accident

When a pregnant woman experiences internal bleeding due to a car accident, the unborn baby’s well-being is at stake. The trauma from the collision can lead to fetal distress or miscarriage. It is imperative that expectant mothers involved in a car accident seek immediate medical care to protect both their health and that of their unborn child.

The Tragic Reality of Wrongful Death in Pregnancy

The aforementioned study also shed light on the increased risk of stillbirth associated with car accidents, particularly after multiple incidents or if the mother was not wearing a seatbelt. Despite the low statistical risk, the possibility of stillbirth is a heartbreaking potential outcome, emphasizing the need for proper safety measures.

In addition to increasing the risk of PROM, placental abruption, and preterm birth, car crashes were also found by the Preventive Medicine study to create an increased risk of stillbirth, especially:

  • Following second (and subsequent) crashes.
  • Among women who were not wearing their seatbelt when the crash occurred and/or traveling in cars without airbags.

The statistical risk of stillbirth is very slim – “Less than 1% of pregnancies resulted in this outcome,” as the study noted – but cannot be ruled out entirely.  Among the study population, a first crash resulted in stillbirth in 128 cases, with another 14 occurring after a second crash.  The stillbirth rate was 4.7 per 100,000 pregnancy days with no crash, 4.9 per 100,000 with one crash, and 21.2 per 100,000 – more than four times greater – with a second crash. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted in one NHTSA report, “Firm statistics on fetal loss resulting from automotive trauma are unavailable because fetal death certificates do not record recent maternal involvement in crashes as a potential cause of death.”  However, in the same report, the NHTSA also pointed out that “based on the frequencies of pregnancies and crash involvement of the general population, it has been estimated that between 1,500 and 5,000 fetal losses occur each year in the United States as a result of maternal involvement in automotive crashes.”American Family PhysicianA 2004 study published in American Family Physician also pointed to car accidents as a major cause of fetal death in the United States based on the following data: “Motor vehicle crashes, domestic violence, and falls are the most common causes of blunt trauma in pregnancy.  The fetal mortality rate after maternal blunt trauma is 3.4% to 38%, mostly from placental abruption, maternal shock, and maternal death.”

The Mother’s Well-Being Post-Accidentdriving while pregnant

The physical and emotional toll of a car accident on a pregnant woman can be extensive. From fractures and contusions to internal injuries, the spectrum of harm is broad. Emotional trauma, manifesting as anxiety or stress, can further complicate the pregnancy, necessitating comprehensive care and support.


What immediate steps should a pregnant woman take after a car accident?

If you are pregnant and involved in a car accident, it is critical to seek medical attention right away. Some injuries may not be immediately evident but could have serious implications for your and your baby’s health.

How do car accidents specifically impact pregnancy?

Car accidents can lead to a range of pregnancy complications, including but not limited to:

  • Placental abruption
  • Premature rupture of membranes (PROM)
  • Preterm birth
  • Stillbirth

These conditions can have enduring effects on both the mother and the child.

Is it advisable for pregnant women to wear seatbelts?

Absolutely. Proper seatbelt use is crucial during pregnancy. The lap belt should be positioned below the belly, touching the thighs, while the shoulder belt should be placed between the breasts and to the side of the belly. This ensures the safety of both the mother and the fetus.

Can the stress from a car accident affect pregnancy outcomes?

Indeed, the emotional stress from a car accident can have adverse effects on pregnancy, potentially leading to preterm labor. It is essential to seek both medical and psychological support after an accident.

What are the legal options for pregnant women involved in car accidents?

If you are pregnant and have been in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to seek compensation. An experienced attorney can guide you through your rights and help you pursue claims for medical costs, emotional distress, and other related damages.

When might pregnancy complications from a car accident become apparent?

Complications such as placental abruption may be immediate, while others may develop over time. Continuous medical monitoring post-accident is crucial for the health of both mother and fetus.

Can a car accident cause long-term health issues for my child?

Yes, complications from a car accident, like preterm birth, can result in lasting health issues for the child, including developmental delays and respiratory problems.

What driving precautions should pregnant women take?

Pregnant women should always wear a seatbelt correctly, adjust the steering wheel to avoid close contact with the abdomen, and choose safer driving routes to reduce risk.

Is it possible to claim compensation for emotional distress following a car accident during pregnancy?

If the accident was due to another’s negligence, you may be eligible to claim compensation for emotional distress in addition to other damages.

How does Oklahoma law protect pregnant women in car accidents?

Oklahoma law allows those injured by another’s negligence, including pregnant women, to seek compensation for various damages. It’s advisable to consult with a personal injury attorney to understand your legal options.

Contact Hasbrook Law

Car accidents during pregnancy can have profound effects, leading to serious complications for both the mother and the unborn child. Awareness of these risks and knowing the appropriate actions to take can help reduce the potential impact on pregnancy. Safety should always be a priority; immediate medical care is essential following an accident.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident while pregnant, Hasbrook Law is here to support you. Our experienced team understands your unique challenges and is dedicated to helping you secure the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to discuss your case and ensure your rights are protected.


This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Clayton T. Hasbrook who has years of legal experience as a personal injury lawyer. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.