A pregnant women buckling her seat belt correctly across the center of her chest – Creative Commons
Moms are the baby’s first safety seat; the baby is protected in its mother’s belly – but pregnancy comes with a long list of do’s and don’ts. As a result of pregnancy-related physiologic and lifestyle changes, driving can become hazardous, especially if your get into an accident.
The modern day lifestyle forced women to carry out a number of chore tasks that require spending some time driving – and these tasks can’t wait for nine months. Whether it’s driving the kids to school, picking them up from training, driving to work, driving to buy groceries or even driving to see the doctor, in all cases, women should prioritize their comfort and health while driving.
Many health researchers underscored the importance of including safe driving guidelines for pregnant women as part of the prenatal care guidelines, pregnancy books and discussions with the doctors during regular prenatal checkups. Moreover, they called for more emphasis on using seat belts while driving during pregnancies, including developing dedicated awareness raising materials to lower the risk.
Vehicle accidents can lead to pregnancy loss and miscarriage; which comes some time after the crash, and therefore it is never correlated to the crash, but considered as a natural miscarriage. Such losses can be avoided if women as drivers or passengers were aware that they should have a medical check after the accident even if they thought it is not harmful.
Which pregnancy trimester is the riskiest for driving?
According to a report published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal in July 2014, the risk of driving while pregnant is the greatest during the second pregnancy trimester. In this trimester, a woman’s chance for getting into an accident is about the same as someone with sleep apnea due to sharp hormonal changes.
The same report highlights that the car crash rate during the first trimester is about the same as that before the pregnancy. Then the risk of an accident drops off in the third trimester of pregnancy and women become even more careful on the road after giving birth than before pregnancy.
In this article we present some tips for future moms to make sure the time they spend driving is as safe as possible for their babies and themselves:
• Drive carefully and follow the standard safe driving habits. Obey the stop signs, don’t speed and minimize distractions.
• Always contact your doctor if you were involved in an accident, even if it seems harmless or you don’t feel you’ve been hurt. Your doctor will check the baby’s heartbeat and will make sure that you don’t have placental abruption that can lead to having your baby prematurely.
• Buckle your seat belt correctly. Keep the seat belt with shoulder portion positioned over the collarbone and the lap portion under the abdomen and across the upper thighs as low as possible on the hips – never on the belly.
• Make sure your seat belt is snug and that the shoulder strap runs across the center of your chest and to the side of your baby bump – never behind your arm or back.
• A combination of air bags and seat belts provides the highest level of protection for you and the baby and outweighs the risks.
• Don’t rest against the side air bag storage compartment, to avoid any sudden bag deployment.
• Move your seat as far back as comfortably possible and position the steering wheel at least 10 inches (25 cm) away from your breastbone in case the airbag should deploy.
• Ensure you will be able to reach the pedals appropriately.
• Tilt your seat slightly away from the steering wheel and make sure that the steering wheel is tilted towards your breastbone rather than your abdomen.
• Consider buying a cushion that serves as a tummy shield to help you wear the seat belt correctly without pressing on your belly.
• Limit your travel to a maximum of six hours per day, making plenty of stops to stretch along the way.
• Prepare for emergencies and always have an emergency first aid kit for the car. Also, make sure you have a charger to ensure you can call help, as well as a flashlight.
• Talk to your doctor about pregnancy-friendly nausea medications.
• Let someone know where you are going and what time you are expecting to arrive.
Lastly, if possible, don’t drive while pregnant and be a passenger or seek alternate arrangements – especially as your pregnancy progresses and your uterus gets closer to the steering wheel. You don’t want to be on the road as you go into labor.