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Traveling for Two: Advice for Pregnant Vacationers

Seat Belts and Air Bags Can Save Your Fetus' Life
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Approximately 2% of car crashes involving a pregnant woman -- or about 2,500 accidents -- will result in an adverse outcome for the pregnancy, he says, so "regardless of the severity of the traffic accident, pregnant mothers involved in a crash should be seen by a doctor right away."

Pearlman tells WebMD that years of specialized research looking at how traffic fatalities occur among pregnant travelers has shown that what is true for the general population is true for mom and her fetus: Seat belts and air bags work.

"Seat belts are protective not only for the mother but also separately for the fetus," he tells WebMD. "When we looked at crashes of similar speed and similar injury to the mom, proper use of seat belts separately protected the fetus. If you had two moms in similar crashes, the one who was wearing the seat belt would be more likely to have a good fetal outcome."

The same goes for air bags. "It appears that when women are in a car crash in which an air bag deploys, it does not result in an increase in fetal injury and may add an additional protection," Pearlman tells WebMD.

Since most air bags are housed in the steering wheel, Pearlman advises pregnant women behind the wheel to adjust the wheel so that it is aimed at the chest. "That is where the air bag will function best, and it won't deploy right over the abdomen," he says.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, or ACOG, cautions that seat belts worn too loosely or too high on the abdomen can cause broken ribs or injury to the abdomen. The lap belt should be placed under the abdomen and across the upper thighs so that it fits as snugly and comfortably as possible, ACOG recommends.

The shoulder belt should be placed between the breasts and across the shoulder. Never slip the shoulder belt off your shoulders, the group says.

The organization also offers the following general recommendations to pregnant women traveling by car or plane:

  • Wear comfortable shoes, support stockings, and clothing that doesn't bind. Choose natural fabrics like cotton or wool that absorb sweat.
  • Take some crackers, juice or other light snacks to prevent nausea.
  • Do not take motion-sickness pills or laxatives without consulting with a doctor.

ACOG also offers the following specific recommendations for pregnant flyers:

  • Try to get an aisle seat so that you can walk around and get to the bathroom easily. The front of the plane often has a smoother ride. A seat just behind the wall that divides first class and coach has extra leg room.
  • The cabin can be both hot and cold even on a short flight. Wear a few layers of light clothing that will allow you to bundle up or remove a layer or two.
  • Eat lightly to avoid being sick. Because the air in the cabin is dry, drink plenty of fluids.

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