Your baby is generally well protected in your belly, but traveling by car can still be hazardous if you get into an accident. As much as, 32,800 pregnant women are involved in motor vehicle crashes every year. And according to SafetyBeltSafe , such crashes are the leading cause of death and serious trauma during pregnancy.
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. Remember, you are your baby’s first safety seat!
How can I keep myself and my baby safe on the road?
Here are five tips to keep you driving and riding safely:
Buckle up correctly. It is recommends that pregnant women wear their safety belt with the shoulder portion positioned over the collarbone (between your neck and the top of your arm) and the lap portion placed under the abdomen and across the upper thighs, as low as possible on the hips — never above or over the belly. Keep the safety belt snug, and make sure the shoulder strap runs across your chest. Never place it behind your arm or your back.
Be a passenger. When possible, don’t drive, especially as your pregnancy progresses and your uterus gets closer and closer to the steering wheel. Your uterus will eventually be in a position where it could be crushed in a crash.
Move away from the steering wheel. When you have to be the driver, move your seat as far back as is comfortable and tilt it slightly away from the steering wheel. Try to position yourself at least 10 inches from the steering wheel — about the length of a piece of notebook paper. Also, make sure the steering wheel is tilted toward your breastbone rather than toward your abdomen.
Avoid leaning forward. 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.
Wear a shoulder-lap belt. Whether you’re the driver or a passenger, be sure to wear a full shoulder-lap belt, not a lap belt alone. The center rear seat (or the center middle seat in a van) is the safest seat in the vehicle — so if that seat has a shoulder-lap belt, that’s your safest option.
What should I do in case of 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.
Even if you don’t feel you’ve been hurt, you may be at risk. According to the CDC, pregnant women in crashes without documented injuries are at greater risk of preterm labor.
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 being aware of it. A placental abruption could cause you to have your baby prematurely.
Are air bags safe for moms-to-be?
Experts say yes.
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.