A new campaign has been launched in Mayo to encourage more pregnant women to wear their seatbelts.
The campaign has been developed after a number of pregnant women were admitted to Mayo General Hospital last year after being involved in road traffic accidents, which could have been life-threatening for both mother and baby.
Mayo County Council road safety officer, Noel Gibbons, said the campaign aims to dispel the commonly held myth that wearing a seatbelt is harmful for the foetus.
“Women radically overhaul their lifestyles to ensure they have a healthy pregnancy, yet by failing to belt up many are putting their own lives and those of their unborn babies in jeopardy,” said Mr Gibbons.
“All mothers would be horrified at the thought of their unborn or newly-born child being harmed or even crushed to death in a crash, yet many are risking just that because of a lack of understanding about the life-saving importance of properly restraining themselves and their children.”
Frances Burke, childbirth educator at Mayo General Hospital, said there are a few simple steps mums-to-be can take to make travelling by car much safer.
“Wear your belt, follow the correct position to protect you and baby, and that is for all journeys,” she urged. “Even for the shortest trips, belt up and get into good habits.”
Consultant obstetrician Dr Ulrich Bartels at Mayo General Hospital said part of the challenge of the new campaign is that there is very little recorded data on the traumatic effects a car collision can have on an expectant mother and her child.
“You can take almost identical collisions and the baby will be injured and the mother will be fine, or vice versa,” said Dr Bartels. “The feeling is that during a collision there are strong shear forces that separate the uterus and placenta, reducing the amount of oxygen and blood flow to the baby. You can have partial or severe separation, and babies can continue to have healthy gestation with partial separation.
“But with any separation there is some foetal distress and the closer it is to full term the greater the chance of premature delivery, as the shock releases hormones prompting birth. Any baby born early is at risk of breathing problems."
Information posters have now been produced and are being distributed to doctors around the county to erect in waiting rooms.