by Tyson Beazley
From the moment you saw a positive on your pregnancy test, you've been in "Momma Bear" mode. You'll do anything to protect your precious cargo. Car safety should become a top consideration.
It's not easy to drive when you're reaching around your 25-pound belly disguised as a basketball. Studies show that expectant moms are more likely to be involved in accidents than women who aren't pregnant. It might have something to do with driving under the influence of pregnancy, which can make you feel tired, nauseated, dizzy and unfocused.
Most moms-to-be continue driving throughout their pregnancies. It's safe for most women, even during the last weeks, if you take a few extra precautions as you get behind the wheel.
There are nearly 170,000 car crashes involving pregnant women every year. One study of 440 pregnant women in car crashes showed that maternal death was six times higher and their babies were five times more likely to die if the mom was thrown from the car.
Use both the lap and the shoulder harness. Keep the lap belt down under your baby bump. Fasten the seat belt snugly beneath your abdomen, against the bony part of your pelvis. In the wintertime, remove your coat so that the belt stays low and in place.
Pass the shoulder strap over your shoulder and across your chest between your breasts. It should feel snug without cutting into your shoulder or your neck. Don't tuck it under your arm or behind your back.
If you'll be in the car for several hours, take frequent breaks. Get out of the car, stretch a bit and walk around and visit the restroom. You'll feel more alert for the next part of the journey and keep the circulation moving in your legs.
The further away from the steering wheel you sit, the less damage you might receive in a car accident. Even a few inches can make a huge difference in a collision.
Scoot the seat back and adjust the head rest so you're as comfortable as possible while driving. Position the steering wheel to maximize abdomen-to-wheel clearance, while aiming it more toward your chest than your head.
You can buy special extenders for the car's pedals that allow you to operate the car from further back than you'd normally sit. Practice with the pedal extenders before you take them out on busy streets.
Rumors have been flying around that airbags can harm your baby. No research confirms this idea. Safety experts agree that an airbag can only help protect the mother and baby in the event of a car accident.
During pregnancy you can become tired sooner than you did when you weren't sharing your body with a growing bump. Realistically gauge your fatigue before you get behind the wheel. If you're too tired to concentrate, ask someone else to drive, wait until you're feeling a little more energetic or postpone your trip.
Once you're out on the road, eat regularly and carry snacks and water to keep your blood sugar level. Sudden dips can cause lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, confusion or disorientation.
Since pregnancy by itself can be distracting, try to get rid of things that will draw your attention away from the road. Don't take your cell phone out of your purse while you're behind the wheel. Let someone else change the channels on the radio. Wait until you're there to attack that lunch you picked up.
Becoming a parent often means taking fewer risks and more precautions. Even if you might consider driving in pounding rain, snow, ice, or fog under normal circumstances, think twice about driving in poor weather conditions when pregnant.
Whenever possible, drive before and after rush hour. Fewer cars on the road mean fewer possibilities for mishaps.
If you're in an accident, your baby will more than likely be okay. Your muscular abdomen and the amniotic fluid offer a buffer from bumps and bruises.
The main risk to your baby is separation of the placenta. This condition might cause vaginal bleeding, severe pain or contractions.