Can Falling During Pregnancy Cause a Miscarriage?

Pregnant woman sitting on the floor of her living room holding her belly
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It is one of those conventions you may have seen in movies: A pregnant woman falls down a flight of stairs and ends up in critical condition. But, are situations like this merely cinematic drama, or can miscarriages really happen after a fall?

The simple answer is that, yes, trauma can lead to the unfortunate loss of pregnancy. The actual risk is largely influenced by the stage of pregnancy and the severity of the accident.

The female body is built to withstand a certain amount of bumps and bruises when carrying an embryo or fetus. However, certain circumstances or conditions increase the likelihood of miscarriage (loss within the first 20 weeks) or stillbirth (loss after the first 20 weeks) following an injury.

A Fall in Early Pregnancy

Generally speaking, a fall during the first trimester is not as likely to lead to miscarriage. During the first trimester, the uterus has a thick wall and is protected by the bones in the pelvic girdle. A high volume of amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the second trimester, which offers added protection as well.

Falling Later in Pregnancy

As pregnancy progresses, the uterus grows larger in size. By the third trimester, the uterus has a thin wall and the baby is positioned in a prominent area. Blunt trauma in the third trimester is more likely to cause a placental abruption (where the placental lining is separated from the uterus).

Unfortunately, falling is more common in the third trimester. As your belly grows, your center of gravity shifts forward, making it harder to stay balanced. Pregnancy hormones, specifically the hormone relaxin, can also make you feel unsteady on your feet.

Relaxin is produced by the body to relax the ligaments in the pelvis and to soften and widen the cervix in preparation for delivery. As a result, joints are looser during pregnancy, increasing the chance of falling.

The Severity of the Fall

How hard you fall will impact how much damage is felt by you and your baby. Injuries in pregnancy may be classified as minor or major. Although minor injuries are less severe, they are also much more common. Nine out of 10 injuries reported by pregnant women are considered minor. As a result, minor injuries represent 60% to 70% of the total fetal losses associated with trauma.

Minor trauma does not involve the abdomen., and the patient doesn't experience pain, loss of fluid, vaginal bleeding, or a reduction in fetal movement. By contrast, major trauma involves the abdomen along with strong forces including deceleration, shearing, or rapid compression (all of which would more likely describe a car accident, not a fall).

What to Do If You Fall During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant and experience a fall or other minor injury, call your doctor to assess the potential harm. Even if you don't think your injury was a big deal, you're better of being safe than sorry, especially in the latter stages of pregnancy.

If you have abdominal or back pain, cramping, dizziness, are experiencing contractions, or have any vaginal discharge or bleeding, call your doctor immediately and go straight to the emergency room.

Under no circumstance should you wait to report an injury if you notice decreased fetal movement. An evaluation will need to be made using an ultrasound, external fetal monitoring (EFM), or other diagnostic and imaging techniques.

A Word From Verywell

Accidents during pregnancy can be unsettling, to say the least. Try to keep in mind that in the vast majority of cases, both you and your baby will be fine. Talk to your doctor right away, even after a minor injury, for peace of mind and to ensure that you receive a proper evaluation in a timely manner.

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  1. Murphy NJ, Quinlan JD. Trauma in pregnancy: assessment, management, and prevention. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(10):717-22.