Protect you and baby with these tips on safety at home and on the road.

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During your pregnancy, one of the best ways to take care of Baby is to take care of yourself. That means avoiding accidents -- the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Reduce your chance of accidents with these suggestions:

  • Drive safely. Car crashes are the number one cause of death among Americans between the ages of 4 and 34. Obey the speed limit, don't use a cell phone while driving, pull off the road if you feel sleepy, and never get in the car with an impaired driver.
  • Always wear a seat belt. Seat belts save 11,000 lives a year. Don't worry that the seat belt will hurt your baby in a car crash -- the main danger to your baby is an injury to you! To wear a seat belt safely and comfortably, place the lap belt below the baby, snugly across the hips and against the upper thighs. (Don't wear the lap belt across your belly.) Place the shoulder belt over your shoulder and in the middle of your chest, between your breasts. If it feels too tight at your neck, adjust the seat or the position of the belt feeder above the car door; lowering the belt feeder may help. Never wear the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back because it won't protect you adequately in a crash.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid deserted parking garages, dark stairwells, and other isolated areas where someone could be waiting to ambush you.
  • Be a smart pedestrian. Look both ways and cross at the crosswalk. In short, follow all the rules you'll be teaching your child in a few years.
  • Install smoke detectors in your home. If you already have them, check the batteries. Fires kill more Americans each year than all natural disasters combined.
  • Reduce risks in your home. Secure loose handrails, remove throw rugs that may slide out from under you, and place a slip-preventing mat in your bathtub or shower. Store guns, weapons, and poisonous chemicals and cleaners safely. Post emergency phone numbers next to the telephone. If you swim, practice water safety.
  • Handle food safely. Improper food storage and preparation can cause illness. Remember to wash your cutting board with hot, soapy water.
  • Wash your hands frequently to stop the spread of germs. Use soap and very warm water. Lather up and rub your hands for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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