Pregnancy can be a magical time for the entire family, but it can also be challenging, particularly for an expectant mother, whose daily tasks may take more time and consideration.
For example, what happens when you are pregnant and want to get behind the wheel of a car or simply ride as a passenger? If you are wondering what vehicle practices should be changed when expecting, read on for 16 safety tips for driving while pregnant.
1. Adjust the Seat
Ahead of driving, make sure that you make all necessary seat, mirror, and equipment adjustments as you get into the vehicle and before putting it in gear. This is especially important if your car does not have a memory button for individual seating positions.
Because you will likely have such different seating needs than the other drivers in your family, it might take some time to get your position just right. This should always be done while still in park and never adjusted during driving—pull over if need be.
2. Allow For Reaction Time
Driving while pregnant is already a distracting process, with the focus being diverted to the baby, the nursery, and the myriad of other things that expectant mothers have to worry about. So it’s only natural that one’s reaction time may be longer than usual.
To account for that and keep everyone safe, make sure that you are incredibly cautious and give yourself plenty of time to react on the road. Try changing lanes a couple of exits before the one you’ll take, or leaving with lots of time to find parking.
3. Be a Passenger
Why not take a weight off your shoulders and just be the passenger in a car? Instead of making yourself the designated driver, use this opportunity to let someone else play chauffeur, put your feet up, and relax in the passenger side.
This could even be a great opportunity for grabbing a quick nap! Just don’t forget to buckle yourself and the baby in securely just as you would while driving.
Wearing a seatbelt can be especially uncomfortable for pregnant women, but it’s essential to continue wearing it properly for the safety of both mother and baby.
Continue to use a three-point seat belt and ensure that the shoulder belt travels over the shoulder, collarbone, and across your chest, resting securely between your breasts. Wear it as low as possible underneath your stomach and adjust it as needed for the lap belt.
The seatbelt will continue to protect both you and your child in case of an accident, as not wearing one during pregnancy will increase your risk of injury caused by a collision or by the airbags deploying.
Should your doctor see fit to exempt you from wearing a seatbelt during car rides, make sure, you are provided with a Certificate of Exemption that you legally need to keep in the car for proof of your exemption and situation.
5. Check Your Medication
For pregnant women taking medications regularly, it’s important to check each prescription to ensure that it is safe to drive while on them. Any medications that cause drowsiness, impaired function, or delayed reaction times are unsafe to take if you plan to drive.
If this becomes problematic for your daily life, make sure to bring it up with your doctor or pharmacist. They might be able to switch you to an alternative brand or other similar medication that would allow you to drive after taking it.
6. Fewer Distractions
Expectant mothers have enough on their plates already, so cutting down on any distractions while you are driving is essential for your safety.
Turn your cell phone to silent, stow it in the glove compartment, and don’t worry about switching the radio stations. It’s imperative to keep your full focus on the road ahead of you, particularly if the weather is inclement or traffic is bad
7. Let Others Know Your Plans
As with most travel plans, it’s wise to let others know where you are headed and when you intend to arrive. This is especially crucial for pregnant ladies if something unforeseen happens, such as a blown tire, a pitstop, or an accident.
Always let your family or partner know where you are going and the estimated departure and arrival times. Once again, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
8. Limit Car Time
It’s no secret that as your belly grows, so does the discomfort you feel when traveling in a car. There’s no harm in limiting car time to only a few hours, particularly if you are facing a long road trip.
Make sure you break up the car travel into manageable chunks of six hours or less. And if the trip will take longer than that, plan to stretch it over a few days, so you have the luxury of driving for only as long as you want to.
9. Pack the Right Snacks
Keeping yourself hydrated and fed is essential for your comfort and safety, both behind the wheel and when playing the part of a passenger. Pack natural energy foods such as fruit or nuts to keep you going, and drink plenty of water.
Don’t worry too much about having to stop for bathroom breaks, as snacks and water will ultimately prevent the fatigue and dizziness that are common during pregnancy and ultimately keep you safe.
10. Plan Driving Breaks
Even if you are driving a shorter distance, make sure to stop every hour or so to get out and stretch your legs. Pregnant women are more at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis when stationary for several hours during travel.
If you are the passenger, try doing easy leg exercises or stretches to keep the blood flowing and muscles moving, like flexing your calves or circling your ankles.
11. Position Yourself Further Back
It’s a good idea to position your body further back from the steering wheel and the airbag when in the car—about 10 inches between it and your breastbone. This will still allow you to reach the controls safely but give enough space for the airbag to deploy.
12. Prepare For Emergencies
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst—especially when pregnant. If an unforeseen crisis were to occur, it would not just affect you but also your unborn baby, so preparing for emergencies on the road is crucial to keeping yourself safe when driving.
Make sure that your roadside emergency kit contains essentials for pregnant women, including appropriate snacks, changes of clothes, necessary medications, and more. Pack warm clothes to keep you and the baby safe and cozy if there is a breakdown.
And it might be a good idea to keep an extra baby bag in the car as the due date approaches, just in case!
13. Pull Over Safely
If you need to pull over for any reason, such as for relieving morning sickness or stretching your legs, it’s vital to do so safely. Always check all lanes of traffic around you before merging, and ensure that you pull over to a parking lot or a residential street.
Never pull over on the side of a road or highway, in an area that seems unsafe, or a place that is not decently illuminated if you are traveling at night.
14. Remove Extra Layers
It’s a good idea to stick to loose, comfortable clothes when going in the car. If you wear a lot of bulky, restrictive layers, you are likely to become uncomfortable and try to take some items off, putting you at risk of a collision.
Instead, wear clothes that are easy to drive in and don’t restrict your movement or give you temperature fluctuations. Skip the tight clothing items and instead think long and loose!
15. See How You Feel
Pregnant women have plenty of things to worry about already—sore backs, swollen feet, nausea, and the list goes on. So, before hopping into the driver’s seat, make sure to take a moment and check in with your body.
How are you feeling? By gauging how you feel, you can determine if driving is the best decision for you and the baby at that moment. Try calling a friend or a family member for a ride or taking an Uber to your destination if it isn’t.
16. Tilt the Wheel
It’s a good idea to tilt your steering wheel to account for your change in seating position and to change the angle of airbag deployment in case of an accident. Instead of leaving the steering wheel pointed at your abdomen, tilt it safely up towards your breastbone.