Is It Safe to Ride a Roller Coaster While I'm Pregnant?

An Unbiased Look at the Risks and Complications

Roller coaster
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Riding a roller coaster may give you the thrill of a lifetime, but can all of the twisting, turning, and plummeting be more than you (or your baby) can handle during pregnancy?

From a statistical standpoint, there has yet to be any published research warning against this or any other type of amusement ride. On the other hand, we do know harm can and does arise from the rapid deceleration of moving vehicles.

But the question is this: does this type of information fairly translate to the heart-thumping frivolity of a roller coaster? Or is it just an old wive's tale that needs debunking?

Understanding Placental Abruption

Placental abruption, also known as abruptio placentae, is a complication of pregnancy where the placental lining separates from the uterus. The effects on the mother and baby can vary, ranging from blood loss and low birth weight to maternal death and stillbirth.

In most cases, abruption is caused by placental disorders or arterial bleeding that can tear the placenta from the uterine wall. Less commonly, placental abruption is caused by trauma, of which automobile accidents are a prime example.

A 2008 study from Wayne State University of Medicine reported that placental abruption occurs in not only 40 to 50 percent of major motor accidents but one to five percent of minor ones. Lack of airbags and seatbelts were also seen to be contributing factors.

In many cases, no outward signs of injury were noted if the accident was considered minor. It was only later when internal hemorrhaging became apparent that the abruption was finally identified.

Placental Abruption on Rollercoasters

As a rule of thumb, riding a roller coaster during pregnancy is not a good idea.

This is most definitely the case in later pregnancy.

On the other hand, taking a roller coaster role during the first trimester is probably not likely to cause a miscarriage or abruption. At this stage, the placenta is still developing and is far less likely to be affected by jarring movements.

Ultimately, the question is whether the ride is can worth the risk? We know, for example, that other factors contribute to placental abruption, including multiple pregnancies, chronic hypertension, and deep vein thrombosis. Even age plays a part, with women under 20 and those over 35 at greatest risk. All of these factors contribute and in no small part.

Moreover, the risk of placental abruption only increases if a person has had previous trauma, however minor. Research has shown that women who had previously been in a car accident at speeds over 30 mph were more likely to have placental abruption than those who hadn't.

Take Home Message

Because no study has yet examined the likelihood of first-trimester miscarriage after a roller coaster ride, no one can say for certain exactly what is safe or not safe This holds true for any other ride that might whip you around or launch you rapidly into the air.

If you are pregnant and decide to take a ride, go immediately to an emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • the sudden and rapid onset of abdominal pain
  • pain in the abdomen and back
  • vaginal bleeding
  • contractions that seem continuous and do not stop

Immediate action is key to ensuring you have a safe and healthy delivery.

Sources:

American Pregnancy Association. "Pregnancy and Roller Coasters." Irvine, Texas; updated July 2015.

Yeo, L.; Anath, C.; and Vintzileos, A. "Placental Abruption." Glob Lib Women Med. 2008; DOI 10.3842/GLOWM.10122.

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