Can Being Hit in Your Stomach Cause a Miscarriage?

Concerned Pregnant woman worried
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There are many old wives tales about how miscarriages happen in pregnancy. One is that falling down stairs, or being hit in the stomach or abdomen, is a way to induce a miscarriage. That begs the question: can being hit in your stomach cause a miscarriage?

In Early Pregnancy

In the beginning of pregnancy the uterus is completely protected by the pelvis, so a miscarriage caused by being hit in the stomach is not likely.

The bones of the pelvis act as a protective barrier. The uterus isn't exposed at this point, so you can breathe a sign of relief that falls nor trauma are likely to be problematic.

In the Second and Third Trimesters

It's only after the first trimester, when the uterus begins to peek above the pelvis, that there's more likelihood that damage may be done. The risk here is that severe trauma would cause a placenta abruption. However, note that this type of damage is typically not caused by your average fall or minor car accident. Also remember that your baby is protected by the amniotic fluid, so damage is more likely to come to the placenta more than anything else.

Tests to Check on the Baby After Being Hit in the Stomach

If you have fallen or had an accident, it's important to call your doctor or midwife immediately, even if you don't think that the accident was that bad or don't feel hurt. They may want you to come in to check the baby and ensure that the placenta is still functioning properly.

There are some things that your doctor or midwife might be able to do to check on the health of the baby. Tests that they may do to check on your baby's well-being might include:

  • Non-Stress Test
    Depending on where you are in your pregnancy, a non-stress test (NST) might be done. This involves you being monitored with a fetal monitor and marking when the baby moves. This might be one of the first tests done to see if your baby is responding well or to detect a potential pattern of contractions that might indicate a placental problem, like an abruption. Typically you will be monitored for at least four hours after a significant trauma. This test can be done in many doctors' or midwives' offices, making it very accessible. 
  • Ultrasound
    An ultrasound test is done to determine if there is damage to the baby or your uterus by actually visualizing both. This can be done at any gestational age. It may also need to be repeated to see if there is healing if any damage was caused. You may be able to have this done at your provider's office, or you may have to wait for a slot at the hospital.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you've had abdominal trauma, you'll want to ask some questions of your providers once it's been determined that you and baby are stable. These include:

  • What signs or symptoms would you normally expect I would have?
  • What signs or symptoms would you want me to call you about?
  • Is there anything that would indicate that I would need to immediately go to the emergency room or call 911?
  • Will this alter my course of pregnancy? Labor? Birth?
  • Will I need additional testing?
  • Will either my baby or I need further follow up this pregnancy? After birth?

You are likely to be frightened and shaken and have a million questions and worries running through your brain. Know that the vast majority of the time, you and baby will be fine.

Other Injuries

It is important to note that other injuries after accidents or falls will also need to be treated, separate from the pregnancy.

This may mean that you'll need to have other tests or medications that will potentially impact your pregnancy. This is where working with your pregnancy provider and in conjunction with your trauma medical team is important, though sometimes there isn't enough time depending on the extent of your injuries.

You may also have other issues that cause you to have worrisome symptoms. An example might be that after some injuries, you might notice blood in your urine. This might be normal and expected, but if you didn't know to expect it. Be sure to bring up and ask about anything different you may notice after your injury with your doctor just to be sure you're safe.

A Note About Domestic Violence in Pregnancy

It is important to note that being hit in the stomach can be from a fall where you actually hit your abdomen during the process of falling, from a car accident where you may be struck in the abdomen with an airbag or other debris, or it can be a direct hit to the stomach in a fight, such as with intimate partner violence or domestic abuse. While none of these are pleasant thoughts, sometimes they do occur in pregnancy. 

Acts of violence are another matter. Pregnancy is a common time for violence to begin. Consider getting help to remove yourself and your baby from the violence. There is help available. People are willing to help you find a safe place to live and get on your feet to make a better life for you and your baby.

The CDC highlights the importance of the National Domestic Violence Hotline: If you are, or know someone who is, the victim of intimate partner violence, contact your local battered women's shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 TYY."

Sources:

Bailey, B. A. (2010). Partner violence during pregnancy: prevalence, effects, screening, and management. International Journal of Women’s Health2, 183–197.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Intimate Partner Violence.

El-Kady, D., W.M. Gilbert, J. Anderson, B. Danielsen, D. Towner, and L.H. Smith, "Trauma during pregnancy: an analysis of maternal and fetal outcomes in a large population." American Journal Obstetrics and Gynecology Jun 2004.

Intimate partner violence. Committee Opinion No. 518. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2012;119:412–7.

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