Can Falling During Pregnancy Cause a Miscarriage?

Your body is designed to protect a developing fetus from minor injuries

Young woman tripping over step
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Occasionally in a movie or a TV show, a newly pregnant woman will fall down the stairs and then have a miscarriage. But, how often does this happen in real life?

The answer is not often, especially not during the first trimester. During the early stages of a pregnancy, the uterus sits low in the pelvis and is well protected by the mother's pelvic bones. Because of the uterus's location. falling down the stairs during the first trimester of your pregnancy, or experiencing a similar physical trauma, is unlikely to affect your baby or the placenta.

Falling Later In Pregnancy

After the first trimester, as the pregnancy progresses and the uterus grows larger. With this growth comes a larger risk that a car accident or a fall down the stairs could either harm the baby or damage the placenta –– leading to a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Still, the pregnant body is designed to protect the fetus. Inside your body, your baby is protected by the amniotic fluid (which absorbs shock), membranes, fat, the thick muscles of the uterus, and the muscles and bones in your pelvic region. All of these layers of protection work together to keep your baby safe from smaller, accidental falls. In fact, falling, especially as your pregnancy develops, is quite common.

As your belly grows, your center of gravity moves forward, which can make it hard for you to stay balanced. Falls, for this reason, are most common during the third trimester. Pregnancy hormones, specifically relaxin, can also make it difficult for you to stay on your feet.

Relaxin relaxes your joints so that when it's time to push out your baby, your body is ready. However, the hormone doesn't just target your pelvic area, it can make all of your joints looser –– resulting in a clumsier you. If you trip and have a minor fall, it is unlikely you will do any serious damage to your developing baby.

These minor falls are more likely to bump and bruise you, than injure your baby.

What To Do If You Fall or Injure Yourself

If you are pregnant, especially if you are in your second or third trimester, and have fallen or have injured yourself (minor car accidents included), you should call your doctor to determine whether or not you need to go in for a checkup. If you have abdominal or back pain, cramping, dizziness or feeling faint, as well as any vaginal discharge or bleeding after your injury, call your doctor or go straight to the emergency room. Any tenderness, pain, or uterine contractions should also be evaluated by a doctor. If you are further along in your pregnancy and notice decreased fetal movement, do not wait things out before seeking medical attention. If your doctor feels you need medical attention, they may order an ultrasound or external fetal monitoring (EFM).

Due to the risk of falling or otherwise injuring the abdominal region, you should avoid sports, such as ice hockey and downhill skiing, during mid-to-late pregnancy.

Sources:

Agnoli, Francis L. and Mark E. Deutchman, "Trauma in pregnancy." Journal of Family Practice Dec 1993. Accessed 3 Aug 2008.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "ACOG Education Pamphlet AP119 - Exercise During Pregnancy." Jun 2003. Accessed 3 Aug 2008.

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. Accessed 3 Aug 2008.

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