Car safety during pregnancy

Car safety during pregnancy

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Your baby is generally well protected in your belly, but traveling by car can still be dangerous if you get into an accident. Motor vehicle accidents account for more than half of all trauma cases during pregnancy, and about 82 percent of these result in fetal loss.

Here's how to make sure the time you spend in the car is as safe as it can be, and why you should always call your doctor if you're in an accident – even a seemingly harmless fender-bender.

How can I keep myself and my baby safe on the road?

Here are five tips to keep you driving and riding safely:

  1. Always wear a seat belt. Protect yourself and your baby by buckling up each and every time you get into a car, including in your final weeks of pregnancy. Wear a seat belt no matter where you sit in the car.
  2. Use the seat belt properly. Whether you're the driver or a passenger, be sure to wear a full shoulder-lap belt, not a lap belt alone. Position the lap belt under your belly so it fits snugly across your hips. The shoulder strap should go across your collarbone (without lying against your neck), between your breasts, and off to the side of your belly. Keep the lap and shoulder straps off of your belly. Pull any slack out of the seat belt and make sure it fits snugly.
  3. Move away from the steering wheel. Avoid letting your belly touch the steering wheel by adjusting your seat as far back as is comfortable. Try to position yourself so the steering wheel is at least 10 inches from your breastbone, which is the long bone that runs down the center of your chest. As your belly grows, you may not be able to keep as much space between you and the steering wheel, but you can make sure the steering wheel is tilted toward your breastbone rather than your abdomen.
  4. Avoid leaning too far back or forward. Adjust the seat angle so you're in a comfortable, upright position. Sit back against the seat with as little slack in your safety belt as possible. This will minimize your forward movement in a crash and let the air bag operate correctly.
  5. Be a passenger if you can. When possible, don't drive, especially as your pregnancy progresses and your uterus gets closer to the steering wheel. The back seat of the car is safest – specifically the center rear seat (or the center middle seat in a van). When you're a passenger in the front, move your seat back as far as possible.

Are air bags safe for pregnant women?

Experts say yes. Air bags are designed to work together with seat belts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That's why it's unsafe to rely on just one or the other.

The NHTSA says that the combination of air bags and safety belts offers a pregnant woman the highest level of protection, as long as she's properly belted and sitting as far back from the front air bag as possible. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees, saying the benefits of an air bag outweigh the risks to a pregnant woman and her baby.

Side air bags have not been shown to pose a risk to passengers. In most cases, the biggest danger is from whatever object your car collides with – for example, another car or a tree. Still, it's safest not to rest against the side air bag storage compartment, in case the bag deploys suddenly.

What should I do if I've been in an accident?

If you're in a collision, even a minor one, call your doctor right away. She'll probably recommend that you come in and have the baby's heartbeat checked (called fetal monitoring) to make sure no damage has been done to you or your baby. If you're 24 weeks pregnant or more, you and your baby may need to be monitored for several hours so your provider can watch for complications and signs of preterm labor.

Even if you don't feel that you've been hurt too badly, you may be at risk. It's possible, for example, to have placental abruption – when the placenta partially or completely separates from your uterus before the baby is born – without you being aware of it. A placental abruption could cause premature delivery of your baby and endanger your life if you've suffered excessive blood loss.

To learn more about staying safe on the road, visit the NHTSA for its recommendations and visual diagrams on car safety during pregnancy.

Watch the video: What You Dont Know - Driving and Pregnancy (June 2022).