Tips for Driving While Pregnant

You took a pregnancy test that showed positive, you’ve visited your doctor. You’ve picked up your copy of “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” as it seems to be required reading. (If you didn’t buy it yet, don’t worry someone will buy it for you. I think I got three copies my first pregnancy.)

You have officially entered Mama mode.

You want to protect that little bean that’s cooking in your oven. You’re reading all the dos and don’ts of pregnancy.

What about driving while pregnant? Do you wear a seat belt? Do you go without? Do you just start walking everywhere? Do you start to work from home and have everything you need delivered to you?

tips for driving while pregnant

Now that you’re driving while pregnant

You may have already read about the study that shows pregnant women are more likely to be in a crash than their nonpregnant friends (could it be the fact that most are feeling exhausted, nauseated, dizzy and/or unfocused).

You may have read the stats (anywhere from 32,800 [according to CDC] to 170,000 [University of Michigan study]) of pregnant women who are involved in crashes every year.

You may have heard that car crashes are the leading cause of death and serious trauma during pregnancy. It’s unlikely you can really stay home from now until you are rushed to the hospital (or even have a home birth). And while walking everywhere may be viable, it really only is until you are waddling so tired it takes you five hours to go a mile because of all the breaks you need to take. (OK, that’s an exaggeration.)

What’s a girl to do? Here are some tips for driving while pregnant

pregnancy and seat belt useHere are some tips to staying safer in the car when you are driving while pregnant and protect that little one growing in your belly:

  • Gauge how you feel. Like I said earlier the increase in accidents for pregnant women is likely due to fatigue, nausea, lack of focus, etc. So before you leave check in with how you feel and if you feel any of those things, ask someone else to drive or postpone your trip until you are feeling better. Eat a snack, drink some water, take a rest and see how you feel after that. Are you feeling more awake? Do you have better focus? If so, go and travel safe.
  • Cut down the distractions. You are pregnant, you have enough going on in your body and on your mind without additional distractions. Let your cell phone and radio be and concentrate on the road. Be extra cautious — or don’t drive — in inclement weather conditions or during high traffic times.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you’ll be in the car for several hours, stop, stretch and walk a bit. (It’s a good excuse time to visit the restroom.) You’ll get the blood moving and feel more alert.
  • Be a passenger. When possible, don’t drive, especially as your pregnancy progresses and your uterus gets closer and closer to the steering wheel.
  • Position yourself far back from the steering wheel. When you have to be the driver, move your seat as far back as is comfortable. Try to position yourself so that your breastbone is at least 10 inches from the steering wheel. You can use after-market pedal extenders to put yourself in a position further away from the steering wheel. It’s just three inches, but that’s a lot of distance in an accident.
  • Tilt the steering wheel toward your breastbone rather than toward your abdomen so that if the airbag does deploy it’s not directly into your abdomen.
  • Remove extra layers. Coats and jackets could interfere with the placement of the seat belt. Plus it could make you uncomfortable and distracted if you get too warm.
  • Buckle up correctly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that pregnant women wear their safety belt with the lap portion placed under the abdomen and across the upper thighs, as low as possible on the hips — never above or over the belly. (I don’t know about you but when I sat down while pregnant there was no “under” the abdomen. I could not do anything to keep the seat belt that low.) Keep the safety belt snug, and make sure the shoulder strap runs across your chest. Never place it under your arm or behind your back.
  • Use a Tummy Shield. There are several products available which “keeps the seat belt low” but only one that safely redirects the seat belt completely away from the pregnant abdomen. Crash testing shows the Tummy Shield™ restrains the woman just as well as just the seat belt while protecting the abdomen from possible injury from the seat belt going across the belly. (No matter how low the woman keeps the seat belt it does go across the baby in the womb in the pelvis area.) Consider the Tummy Shield Baby’s First Car Seat™.
  • Use a lap-shoulder belt. Whether you’re the driver or a passenger, be sure to wear a full lap-shoulder belt, not a lap belt alone. The center rear seat is the safest seat in the vehicle (which is why we CPS techs recommend putting the newborn baby’s car seat there) but only if it has the lap-shoulder belt.
  • Airbags and seat belts work together. Continue to wear your seat belt even if your car has airbags for optimal protection, says NHTSA. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees, saying the benefits of an air bag outweigh the risks to a pregnant woman and her baby. Side air bags have not been shown to pose a risk to passengers, just remember to resist resting against the side air bag storage compartment, in case the bag deploys.

Oops, I was in a crash, now what?

Most paramedics are trained to take all pregnant women involved in a crash to the hospital no matter how minor the incident. If you are driving while pregnant and involved in an accident, seek medical attention quickly regardless of whether or not you have any visible physical injuries.

Your doctor will probably recommend having the baby’s heartbeat checked. Trauma from a car accident can cause preterm labor and, if there are injuries to the fetus, chances are you won’t be able to see or feel them.

According to the CDC, pregnant women in crashes without documented injuries are at greater risk of preterm labor. It’s possible, for example, to have placental abruption — when the placenta partially or completely separates from your uterus before the baby is born — without being aware of it, which could cause you to have your baby prematurely.

Sometimes women experience a crash and everything seems fine. Then a couple weeks later the mom-to-be will experience a miscarriage. Sometimes the two are related, however, if they are, often times they are not documented as a cause and effect. We wish you happy, safe, comfortable driving during pregnancy.

We want to know, did you read anything hear that your doctor shared with you? Share your comments below.

By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004

Copyright 2015 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

This post was originally published June 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.  

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2 Comments
  • Cecile
    Posted at 13:02h, 23 January Reply

    Thanks for sharing those guidelines! A very useful post. Especially for first time moms.

  • Daniel Brady
    Posted at 09:33h, 25 March Reply

    HaHa! This is the great and essential tips for my sister. She is pregnant and has to drive regularly to work. Thanks for your post, Amie

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