Fitting your pregnant belly behind a steering wheel can be quite the challenge -- and it can also raise some questions about safety. Driving while pregnant may not be very comfortable, but it isn’t any less safe than normal. As long as your doctor doesn’t advise against driving for medical reasons, a few precautions can keep driving safe well into the third trimester. Here are four tips for driving safely during your pregnancy.
Always Wear a Seat Belt
Wear your seat belt during every car ride, even if you’re just going around the block. Even a minor accident can result in being thrown about in the car. Many women worry that a seat belt will cause too much pressure across the abdomen and do more fetal harm in the case of an accident. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends pregnant women use a standard three-point restraint system of seat belt and shoulder strap. The seat belt should fit snug and low under the belly, across the pelvis. The shoulder strap should cross the center of the chest, between the breasts and alongside the baby bump. Neither strap should be allowed to stretch across the belly. Use a seat belt extender if you need to add a few more inches for a proper fit.
Take a Break on Long Rides
If your trip lasts more than four hours, taking regular stops to get out and move around is very important. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that sitting in any position for several hours, no matter how you travel, increases the risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition in which a blood clot (thrombus) forms in the legs. The thrombus can break loose, travel to the smaller blood vessels in heart or lungs, and cause dangerous blockages. Pregnant women are at greater risk for DVT, so to prevent this, take a 15 minute walking break every two to three hours.
Leave the Airbags On
Experts agree airbags can prevent head injuries and are safe for pregnant women. Used in tandem with seat belts, they protect both mom and baby in case of an accident. Instead of turning off airbag systems, move the seat back so you have at least 10 inches between the steering wheel and breast bone. Adjust the steering wheel to angle up toward the breast bone, rather than the belly.
In Case of a Traffic Accident
See your doctor as soon as possible after any accident, even a minor one. The effects of an accident on a fetus may take several hours to become obvious. Your doctor will likely monitor you for hours or days to be sure the baby is okay. If you notice any blood or fluid, call your doctor immediately.
Don’t Drive Longer than is Comfortable
Keep a cell phone on hand with emergency numbers, including your obstetrician’s office. Driving while pregnant is only safe as long as you feel comfortable. As your due date approaches, driving may become more uncomfortable. If your belly gets too big to fit easily behind the steering wheel, give up the keys and let someone else drive.