The study published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal says there’s extra risk for women in the second trimester, which is when they’re feeling pretty darn pregnant, but don’t have the bigger third trimester belly that might prompt them to drive more carefully.
To blame? That condition known commonly by every woman I’ve ever known who’s had a baby — “pregnancy brain,” reports USA Today.
“A normal pregnancy is associated with fatigue, nausea, insomnia, anxiety and distraction,” one of the authors explains. “All those changes could contribute to driver error.”
He and his co-authors combed through records for more than 500,000 women who gave birth in Ontario, who were tracked for four years before giving birth and one year afterward.
Researchers tallied up each car crash that was serious enough to send the woman driver to the emergency room and found that the number of serious crashes for all the women was 177 per month before pregnancy, or 4.5 per 1,000. That figure held through the first month of pregnancy, but by the fourth month, those same women were having 299 serious crashes a month, at a rate of 7.6 per 1,000.
In the last month of pregnancy, the rate fell to only 2.7 per 1,000 and then stayed down in the year after the births. At that time, new moms might not be as likely to be driving or had their babies with them and drove extra carefully.
“We are not saying that pregnant women shouldn’t drive,” one of the co-author says. A good point to make — also note that this is just one study and not every pregnant woman is a disaster on wheels.
And handing the wheel to a male partner won’t help either, as men have worse crash rates than women whether there’s a bun in the oven or not, he says. Instead, he suggests driving just like you would with a big belly or your newborn in the car.
“Just slow down and follow the rules of the road,” he says.
Or ask your un-pregnant galpals to ferry you around, because we totally will. But I need to borrow your car.