You do it every day—reverse out of your driveway and hit the highway on the way to work, school, or errands. But when you have a baby on board, you should take some special safety precautions.
According to a 2014 report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, pregnant women are more likely to be in serious car accidents. The second trimester presents the greatest risk for accidents; during this time, the odds of an accident for a pregnant woman are similar to those for a person who has sleep apnea.
Here’s what you can do to minimize your risks on the road.
1. Ignore misinformation.
Some pregnant women believe they should not wear seat belts, that they should wear lap belts only, or that they should disable their vehicle’s airbags for safety—and that’s simply not true, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Buckling up properly is the best way to protect yourself, and airbags are a crucial component of safety.
2. Make sure you feel fine.
Before you get behind the wheel, assess your feelings: Are you sleepy (or downright exhausted)? Feeling nauseated? Experiencing stress? Take any necessary steps—whether that’s resting, snacking, or drinking water—before you drive. When in doubt, ask a friend or family member to take the wheel.
3. Minimize distractions.
You have a lot going on (and a lot on your mind!), but don’t let distractions get in the way of safe driving. Set aside your cell phone so you’re not tempted to text or call and turn down the music if it’s affecting your concentration.
4. Plan frequent breaks.
If you’re planning a long drive (such as a road trip), be sure to take frequent breaks so you can stretch and move around. It will help you concentrate on driving. (It’s also a great chance to hit the bathroom since you probably have to pee!).
5. Adjust your vehicle to suit your growing body.
Most of us are locked in autopilot when it comes to our car’s configuration (and heaven forbid our spouses move that seat even an inch!), but your changing body offers a great reminder to adjust your seat and steering wheel. For safety, tilt the steering wheel toward your chest rather than your abdomen, and move your seat back so your chest is as far as possible from the steering wheel. Your belly should never touch the steering wheel.
6. Consider using a pregnancy seat belt adjuster.
Some moms appreciate a seat belt adjuster that positions the seat belt across your thighs rather than over your belly. The Zuwit Bump Belt Adjuster is easy to unstrap and re-strap, and it works for women of all shapes and sizes. It can also help decrease discomfort after a c-section.