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Injuries during pregnancy

9-minute read

If you experience any injury to your abdomen (tummy) in your pregnancy — for example, from a sudden impact, a fall, violence or accident — contact your midwife or doctor immediately.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for information and support.

Key facts

  • Injuries to your abdomen in pregnancy can lead to serious complications.
  • When you are seriously injured, the best outcomes for your baby happen when you receive prompt medical care.
  • If you have had any trauma, such as a car accident, serious fall or physical attack by another person, you should go to the nearest hospital.
  • If you have had a less urgent injury, then you can contact your GP first.
  • Even after a minor injury while you’re pregnant, if your baby is not moving as much as normal, you have vaginal bleeding or you have pain in your abdomen, you should go to hospital.

What happens if I get injured while I'm pregnant?

If you have had any trauma, such as a car accident, serious fall or physical attacked by another person, you should go to the nearest hospital. If you have had a less urgent injury, you can contact your doctor first. However, like with any injury, if your baby is not moving as much as normal, you have vaginal bleeding or pain in your abdomen, you should go to the hospital.

If you have an injury, your health team will work to ensure your safety first. As soon as they can, doctors will also check on your baby. If you are severely injured, the best chance of your baby being saved is making sure you get the best care. Depending on the injury, you may have obstetric doctors and other specialist doctors, including neonatologists (baby specialists), taking care of you and your baby.

Trauma to your abdomen can lead to serious complications in your pregnancy including:

How might I get injured?

There are many ways you may be injured in pregnancy, such as:

Things that increase the risk of experiencing physical trauma while pregnant include:

  • being younger than 25 years old
  • using illegal drugs or alcohol
  • not wearing your seat belt the way it should be worn in pregnancy
  • experiencing domestic violence

When you are pregnant the lap belt should be over your hips, but below your uterus (belly). The sash part of the belt should be between your breasts and above your uterus (belly).

If you experience any trauma to your abdomen in your pregnancy, contact your midwife or doctor immediately.

Injury from a mental health crisis

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or thinking about suicide, call triple zero (000) or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Don’t leave the person alone until help arrives.

Injury from family violence

If you are or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 at any time for information and support.

What should I look out for if I'm injured?

If you are injured in pregnancy, you should look out for:

Bump, impact or trauma to your abdomen

You may experience a bump, impact or trauma to your abdomen from many causes, including domestic violence or a car accident. If you have any injury to your stomach, you should go to the nearest hospital. Be sure to tell the staff that you’re pregnant — an obstetrician will check that you and your baby are OK.

A fall is another cause of abdominal trauma. In addition, falls may cause other injuries such as broken bones and head injuries. Depending on how you fall, you will be asked about your symptoms, be examined and may need to have an x-ray or another form of imaging. Read more on x-rays and radiation exposure during pregnancy.

A placental abruption is the most common complication from blunt trauma to the abdomen in pregnancy. You may need to remain in hospital for at least 4 hours so your baby’s heart rate can be monitored after an injury. This is to make sure that there aren’t signs of a placental abruption.

If you have had an injury to your abdomen and have pain in your abdomen, a firm or painful uterus, feel like your uterus is tightening or contracting or you have vaginal bleeding, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Be sure to tell the operator that you are pregnant.

Electric shock

You may experience an electric shock during pregnancy, for example, from a faulty kitchen appliance or a damaged electrical cord. If this happens to you, it is important to go to the hospital immediately — even a small shock could affect both you and your baby.

Broken bones

It is uncommon to have broken bones in pregnancy. If you think you have broken a bone, you need to go to the hospital or see your GP. If you break your hip or pelvic bones it can have serious consequences for you and your baby. If you need surgery, it will be done in a way that has the least risks to you and your baby. There will be several doctors involved in your care, including an anaesthetist, a surgeon and an obstetrician.

Injuries to your skin

You may get cuts, grazes or burns while you are pregnant.

In pregnancy, burns are usually caused by hot liquid touching your skin. Your baby is usually not directly injured if you get burnt, but if you have a large deep burn, it can also affect your baby. Burns can usually be treated in the same way as if you weren’t pregnant. Unless you have a large area of your body that is burned, your baby usually does not need to be born early.

Sometimes skin conditions in pregnancy can be itchy and cause you to scratch your skin. This can lead to skin breaks, bleeding and sometimes infection. You should see your doctor if you can’t stop scratching. Depending on the cause, you may need creams or medicines to help manage the symptoms or their effects.

Sprains

If you have a sprain while you’re pregnant, you should see a doctor who can examine you and assess your injury. Sometimes they will recommend that you rest, use ice, keep the injury elevated and use bandages. Other times an x-ray or another form of imaging is needed. This is to check if you have any broken bones that need treatment with a cast or surgery. Your doctor may also recommend you see a physiotherapist.

If you have injured a muscle or joint, it’s a good idea to see a GP. They will be able to discuss how you can manage the pain and care for your injury while you’re pregnant. They may also recommend you see a physiotherapist for exercises and support.

To find a physiotherapist or maternal, child and family health service near you, use the Service Finder tool.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Teeth problems

If you have bleeding gums or pain in your gums or teeth, it is safe to see your dentist for treatment in pregnancy. It is important to treat dental problems without delay — poor dental health in pregnancy can lead to premature birth or low birth weight babies. Dental check-ups, root canal and fillings can all be done safely if you are pregnant.

Tests, scans and medicines to manage injuries during pregnancy

If you are injured, you may need to have tests, procedures or scans. Before you have a test or procedure while you are pregnant, your doctor will explain any risks to you or your baby, and ask if you agree to having the test or procedure. This is known as informed consent.

Ultrasound does not expose your baby to any radiation, and is safe for you and you baby.

Dental x-rays are generally safe during pregnancy, due to the very low exposure your baby will have to radiation. Be sure your dentist knows that you are pregnant, so they can take extra care to protect your baby from harm.

There are medicines for pain and antibiotics for infections that you can safely use if you are pregnant. If you are unsure if a medicine is safe for you or your baby, ask your pharmacist, or contact Mothersafe for more advice.

Resources and support

You can call Mothersafe on 1800 647 848 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm to find out about the safety of medicines in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

NSW Health has a booklet with common concerns in pregnancy.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2024


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