Being pregnant can have a huge impact on a Los Angeles woman’s life. Besides the obvious changes to her body, she may have to adopt a new diet, cut back on work duties and otherwise adapt her life to keep the fetus safe and healthy.

However, it seems that some women’s ability to drive safely goes down when they are pregnant. A study from the University of Toronto estimates that pregnant women are 42 percent more likely to get into a car accident during the middle part of their pregnancies.

The researchers examined medical records of more than 500,000 Ontario women who gave birth sometime between 2006 and 2011. They found that those women were in 6,922 car accidents within three years prior to becoming pregnant. That was more than twice the rate for the providence as a whole, which researchers believe may be partly explained by the women’s relative youth.

The subjects’ car accident rate did not change significantly during their first trimester of pregnancy. But it spiked during the second semester. The pre-pregnancy rate for the subjects was 4.55 crashes per 1,000 women per year. But while in their second trimester, their accident rate jumped to 6.47 per 1,000 drivers, a 42 percent increase.

The subjects were especially susceptible to a collision in the first month of the second semester. There were 7.66 crashes per 1,000 women while in their fourth month of pregnancy. To compare, the overall rate in Ontario was 2 per 1,000 drivers.

The researchers believe that the reason for this huge jump in car accidents has to do with the changes that women’s bodies go through by the second semester. It appears that some women fail to adjust their behavior to accommodate changes, such as weight gain, that may impact their driving abilities. As a result, accidents occur that might have been avoided before the drivers were pregnant.

The lead author recognizes that it is impractical to tell women to stop driving until they deliver their child. His message is to encourage pregnant women to take special care while behind the wheel. Besides harming themselves or their fetus, they could also cause injury to other people.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Driving while pregnant: Car crash risk spikes 42% in second trimester,” Karen Kaplan, May 12, 2014