Every year, pregnant women are involved in nearly 170,000 car crashes according to a University of Michigan study. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine has also conducted research showing the correlation between car accidents and increased risk of life-threatening complications and preterm labor.
It’s safe to drive throughout your pregnancy, but it is recommended to not do so as much as you would normally. There are some tips that can help minimize the amount of risk you take on every time you do drive. You should also drive less and less as your due date approaches- the last thing you want is to go into labor while on the road!
1. Prepare for breakdowns and emergencies.
It’s important always to be prepared, but it is particularly essential when you are pregnant. There are a few things you should have in your car in case of an emergency. Items such as an emergency kit and other necessities like a battery charger can help you get help when you need it. Food, water, a blanket, and a flashlight should also be readily packed so that you are well-equipped to handle and long periods of waiting you might be in for.
2. Safety belt tips
If you’re expecting, make sure to put on your safety belt correctly so that you are protecting yourself as much as possible. Some helpful hints on how to do so:
Make sure that the vehicles you travel in are equipped with three-point restraints (lap and shoulder belts).
Position the shoulder strap between your breasts and to the side of the abdomen. For the best effect, the belt should be positioned far below your neck across your shoulders and chest.
Wear the shoulder strap at the front, not behind the back or under your arms.
Fasten the lap belt low across the hips so that it is under your abdomen.
Never position the seatbelt so that it is lying directly above, on, or across your abdomen.
Resize the belt as you need to so it is agreeably secure. If you travel in cold weather, don’t get into your vehicle until the engine is warm. This way, you don’t have to worry about a bulky coat causing fitting issues with the seatbelt.
Important: Always wear a full belt with three-point restraints, and never a lap belt just by itself.
3. Use a Tummy Shield.
Putting a seatbelt on is important whenever you drive. When you’re pregnant, it can become difficult to buckle up as your tummy keeps expanding.
There are many products on the market that claim to enhance safety or comfort. However, only one has been properly crash-tested and proven to be able to protect a woman’s pregnant belly by redirecting the seatbelt. Crash tests have shown that the Tummy Shield prevents the seat belt from crushing the stomach and uterus while still restraining the woman protectively. For normal seatbelts, no matter how low the woman keeps the strap it will still cross over the baby in her womb.
You could say that the Tummy Shield is a Baby’s First Car Seat. You’ll be able to drive with peace of mind knowing that the seatbelt won’t pose any danger to your unborn baby.
4. Position yourself far back from the steering wheel and/or airbag.
The driver’s seat should be adjusted so that your chest is at least 10 inches from the steering wheel and that you are comfortable. After-market pedal extenders can be used to achieve this distancing. Even if it’s only 3 inches, that’s still a sizeable amount of distance in the event of an accident.
It may also be necessary to adjust the mirrors for a better view from your new seating position.
As a passenger, also position your seat as far back as possible to lessen the impact of an airbag. While airbags are still considered safe to use and recommended for pregnant women, they do deploy at 200 mph at a certain angle. Therefore, the best thing to do is still to reduce the force that they may hit a pregnant belly with.
5. Airbags and seat belts work together.
Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the NHTSA state that pregnant women should always wear seat belts even in vehicles equipped with airbags. It is generally agreed that the protective capabilities of airbags outweigh the potential risk and harm that they might cause. Side airbags are an effective safety measure in cars, but they can also be hazardous if passengers rest their weight against the side of the compartments.
6. Cut down the distractions.
Driving while pregnant can be unsafe. It’s important to stay focused on the road and not worry about other distractions in your life. When you’re driving, turn off your cell phone and radio. Remember: This advice is for everyone, not just pregnant women.
Be especially mindful- or simply avoid driving- in hazardous weather or during congested conditions.
7. Plan frequent breaks.
Pregnancy changes your body, and you should adjust to these changes. This includes adjusting your driving style as well. If you’ll be in a vehicle for an extended amount of time, stop and stretch. Take the time to go to the restroom as frequently as you need. You’ll feel less lethargic, more energetic, and decrease the likelihood of painful swelling.
It’s important to allow for breaks in your day so that you can take extra care of yourself during this time. Estimated travel times should be increased by at least ten to fifteen minutes for shorter trips, and more for longer journeys. It’s important to have something to eat before you start on your trip, and pack a few healthy snacks for the trip as well.