I can vividly remember my gynecologist warning me to keep wearing a seat belt during the last few months of my second pregnancy despite my rapidly expanding belly and my instinctive fear the seat belt may do more harm to my baby than good. I was pregnant with twins at the time so you can imagine how huge my belly was. And my yet to be born sons seemed to be competing for a forward position in my uterus so all my extra weight and size was jutting out in front! So the idea of strapping on a seat belt around my belly was a bit frightening. But I did as told, and positioned the belt down below my belly and in front of my hips whenever I sat behind the wheel of my car. Leaving maternal instincts aside, this is the safest thing to do both for you and your baby.
However, apparently many pregnant women still do not wear seatbelts because they fear the restraint would harm their baby. I understand their concern, but am convinced by the very compelling research that says otherwise.
A new study reported at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine meetings this week in New Orleans found that pregnant women who wear seat belts are LESS likely to have pregnancy complications from a car crash. Experts have long recommended that pregnant women wear seatbelts so this is not really a new finding. But apparently many women still don’t heed the advice – nor perhaps do they even know about it.
The researchers examined the records of over 2,400 pregnant women who were injured in car crashes. Women wearing a seatbelt or having an air bag were less likely to have pregnancy complications after the accident. As you may then guess, wearing a seatbelt and having an airbag resulted in the lowest risk for complications.
This study did have me questioning however if sitting in the back seat with a seat belt – especially when you are in the last months of pregnancy – wouldn’t be an even safer bet? I remember instinctively wanting to avoid the front passenger seat while I was pregnant and having my husband or friend drive whenever possible, fearing that I would suffer a greater injury if in an accident in the front seat. Of course often I was driving to work alone and so the back seat was not an option.
Since motor vehicle accidents remain a common cause of injury and death in young adults this is a good time to remind women to practice safe driving while pregnant (and all other times as well).
1) Buckle-up no matter how pregnant you are or how short the car trip may be.
2) Don’t drink, take antihistamines or any other sedating drugs and drive (pregnant women already should avoid alcohol and most drugs including sedating antihistamines so common in cold and allergy remedies).
3) Don’t use your cell phone (hands free is also distracting) under any circumstances while driving. Pull to the side of the road and make the call if it is an urgent one.
4) Don’t be a passenger in a car where the driver has been drinking, taking sedating medication, or with a driver who uses their cell phone while driving.
5) If you are taking a long car trip, remember to get out and stretch and exercise your leg muscles to keep the blood flowing. Pregnant women have a higher risk of blood clots and should take extra care to move their legs around when sitting still for long periods. On the other hand, most pregnant women need to urinate every few hours which serves two great purposes – emptying your bladder and moving your leg muscles to keep the blood flowing.
What have you done when pregnant? Did you wear seatbelts? Did your gynecologist or practitioner advise you to wear seatbelts? Are you tempted to sit in the back seat while a passenger in a car?
As always, I welcome your comments and questions.
Marie Savard, M.D. is ABC News Medical Contributor. Her new book, Ask Dr. Marie: Straight Talk and Reassuring Answers to Your Most Private Questions, will be available in August.