When you are pregnant, it can seem as though suddenly this baby (who hasn’t even been born yet) is influencing every area of your life. Most of us think right away of some changes that we need to make, but other pregnancy adjustments are less obvious. It is generally perfectly safe to continue driving during pregnancy. However, a few tips can help to make car travel both safer and more comfortable for you while you’re expecting.
You should already be wearing your seatbelt every time that you’re in a car. It’s even more important now that you’re protecting your baby as well. If you’re in a car (whether driving or a passenger), wear a seatbelt.
If possible, always use a shoulder belt (the full belt as in driver’s seats) rather than just a lap belt. How you position your seat belt can also help to keep both you and your growing baby safe. According to the National Childbirth Trust (commonly called the NCT), there are two important points to remember about wearing a seatbelt safely during pregnancy. First off, you should but the lap part of the seatbelt under your bump or as low on your lap as possible. (1) This means that if you’re in an accident, the impact will hopefully be transferred to you and not your baby. Secondly, put the shoulder belt over the top of your bump (the strap should go “between your breasts”). Again, this means that the force of the seatbelt should go on you rather than the baby.
Especially in the last trimester, it can be difficult to get comfortable. I find that using a small cushion can really help to make the car more comfortable. You can buy small wedge-shaped cushions to sit on, or you may want a small cushion for extra support behind your back. Also, you may want to make sure that you have sunglasses, a water bottle, and that you’re dressed in layers so that it’s easy to stay a comfortable temperature.
Airbags do increase the safety of cars and decrease the risk of serious injuries if you are in an accident. During pregnancy, you should adjust your seat as far back as possible to provide extra distance between your bump and the airbag. According to the Smart Motorist website, you should aim for a distance of 10 inches between your chest and the steering wheel, if you’re driving, or put the passenger seat as far back as possible. (2)
During pregnancy, sitting in the same position for prolonged periods can lead to problems like leg cramps. This is true whether you’re sat still in the car or at a desk. To avoid potential problems or discomfort, try to move around as much as possible. Walk around or stretch before getting in the car. Once in the car, periodically stretch or wiggle your feet (even dancing along to music in your seat can be good). If you’re on a road trip, make sure to take regular breaks to walk around. (This is not normally a problem as you’ll probably need to stop to pee anyway.)
(1) “On the move”, bumps & babies (NCT magazine) Vol.2 No. 15
(2) ” Seat Belt and Airbags Are Recommended During Pregnancy? Know Its Ideal Position “, Smart Motorist