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Trauma in pregnancy

Sarah J Kilpatrick, MD, PhD
Section Editors
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Scott Manaker, MD, PhD
Maria E Moreira, MD
Deputy Editor
Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG


Evaluation of the pregnant trauma patient presents unique challenges since the presence of a fetus means that there are two patients potentially at risk, both of whom require evaluation and management. Knowledge of pregnancy-related anatomic and physiologic changes is also important in the evaluation and management of these women.

Issues specific to the pregnant trauma patient will be discussed here. Issues related to management of trauma in the nonpregnant population are reviewed separately. (See "Initial management of trauma in adults".)


Trauma is a major contributor to maternal mortality, and is the leading cause of pregnancy-associated maternal deaths in the United States [1,2]. In 2002, there were 4.1 injury-related hospitalizations of pregnant women per 1000 deliveries in the United States [3].

Motor vehicle crashes and domestic/intimate partner violence account for most cases of maternal trauma, while falls, burns, homicide, suicide, penetrating trauma, and toxic exposure account for the majority of the remainder [3-5]. In fact, pregnancy appears to be a risk factor for being assaulted. Between 1993 and 1998, homicide was the leading cause of death among pregnant or recently pregnant women in Maryland and accounted for 20 percent of these deaths, but it was only the fifth leading cause of death among nonpregnant women [6]. In another American series, 5 percent of female homicide victims were murdered while pregnant [7]. An epidemiologic study reported an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes in the second trimester compared with prepregnancy (6.5 versus 4.6 events per 1000 drivers annually; RR 1.42, 95% CI 1.32-1.53), but a causal relationship is unproven [8]. (See "Intimate partner violence: Epidemiology and health consequences", section on 'Pregnancy'.)

Pregnancy appears to increase the risk of falling, possibly because of increased joint laxity, weight gain, a change in the center of gravity, and other anatomical changes. Alterations in sway responses to perturbations have been reported in the third trimester in healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies [9].


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Literature review current through: Jan 2016. | This topic last updated: Nov 20, 2015.
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