A new study, the first of its kind, shows that a pregnant woman in her second trimester could be more likely to have a serious car accident than at any other time in her pregnancy or life. This means that, in addition to air travel, exercise and caffeine, new moms should be more careful about their driving.

As part of the study, researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto examined records for more than 500,000 women who gave birth in Ontario. Data was taken from four years before giving birth and one year after. Only car accidents that were serious enough to send a woman to the emergency room were recorded as part of the study.

They found that, before pregnancy, the group of women had 177 serious accidents per month as drivers, or about 4.5 per 1,000 women a year. By the time the group reached the fourth month of pregnancy, the rate of accidents increased to 7.6 per 1,000 per year, about 299 every month. The rate of accidents fell sharply in the last month of pregnancy and the year after the births, holding at about 2.7 per 1,000 for the year.

According to Donald Redelmeier, one of the researchers on the study, “A normal pregnancy is associated with fatigue, nausea, insomnia, anxiety and distraction. All those changes could contribute to driver error.”

Experts don’t recommend that women stop driving altogether during their second trimester, but women should be certain to stay focused on the road and traffic around them, regardless of how they may be feeling that day. They should also wear both a lap and harness belt, keep their airbags operational, and make sure the steering wheel is 10 inches from their breastplate.

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