Car Safety during Pregnancy

You may be feeling a bit restricted by all the “rules” imposed on you during pregnancy.  Obviously you want to do what’s best for your baby, but between avoiding sushi, saunas and skiing, life as a pregnant woman can be limiting.  Well, here’s one more precaution to add to the list: driving.  Car safety during pregnancy is important to keep you and your baby safe.  We’re exploring this topic in depth today.

Car Safety during PregnancyAccording to a NPR, a Canadian study determined that pregnant women are “more likely to have serious car crashes.” The CDC estimates that nearly 33,000 pregnant women are involved in car crashes every year.  Research shows driving during the first and second trimester yields more accidents than in the third trimester with the greatest risk being during the second trimester.  The Canadian study’s recommendation was for pregnant women to be slightly more cautious because minor changes in the drivers’ behavior could have prevented accidents.

So what minor changes can you make?  Many of them are common sense things you should be doing anyways, whether you are pregnant or not.  Seatbelts top the list.  If anyone ever told you not to wear a seatbelt while you are pregnant, they are wrong.  Always wear your seatbelt!  The lap belt portion should fit snuggly below your baby bump on your abdomen.  The shoulder harness should sit between your breasts and never fold it under your arm. Also, remove coats or other restrictive gear before driving.

Next, adjust your seat and the steering wheel for optimal safety.  Sit as far back as possible while still being able to reach the wheel.  Being 10 inches from the steering wheel is ideal.  Adjust your chair angle and headrest to be most comfortable for you.  Then angle the steering wheel towards your chest and away from your abdomen.  If you cannot reach the pedals in your extended position, purchase pedal extenders so you can drive normally.  Also, airbags are OK during pregnancy and can help protect you and your baby in the event of an accident.

Take frequent breaks while driving.  Even as a passenger you should get up, walk around and have a snack every hour or two while on longer car trips. This will improve circulation to your baby and help you avoid swelling and fatigue.  Plus, when your blood is flowing, you’ll be more alert and responsive while driving.

Try to avoid extra distractions when driving during pregnancy.  Fiddling with the radio, eating or using your cell phone may be that minor behavior that makes all the difference in car safety during pregnancy.  Keep yourself focused on the task at hand: driving safely.  If you are feeling particularly distracted by pregnancy or unusually tired, ask someone else to drive until you feel up for the challenge.  Driving takes a lot of concentration which you may not have when your body and brain are working hard to support your baby.

Once your baby is on board, driving cautiously takes on a whole new meaning.  Practice the same car safety during pregnancy as you would with a newborn in the car.  With just a little extra caution, you can help prevent serious car accidents and that may keep you and your baby safe on the road.