Most women can safely drive throughout the duration of their pregnancies. Symptoms such as fatigue and a growing bump, however, can conspire to make driving more difficult. Help safeguard your health and the health of your little one with these pregnancy-related driving tips:
1. Listen to your body. A 2014 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the risk of having a traffic accident jumps 42 percent during the second trimester of pregnancy. Researchers aren’t sure what causes the second-trimester jump, but suspect hormonal changes, stress and fatigue may play roles.
If you’re not feeling well or start feeling fatigued or dizzy behind the wheel, pull over and call a close friend or your partner for a ride. When traveling long distances, don’t try to drive more than five or six hours in one day and schedule frequent stops. Getting out of the car and moving around improves your alertness, can help prevent leg and ankle swelling, and offers an opportunity for a blood-sugar-stabilizing snack.
2. Buckle up. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends all women—even those within weeks of their due date—wear a seatbelt with both lap and shoulder belt components while inside a moving vehicle. Your seatbelt is properly positioned if the shoulder strap sits between your breasts and away from your neck and the lap belt is strapped below your bump and across your hips and pelvic bone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Never place the shoulder strap under your arm or behind your back.
3. Move away from the steering wheel. You may believe it’s safer to disable your airbags, but they play an equally important safety role during pregnancy. To minimize airbag force and to prevent your bump from hitting the wheel during an accident, sit as far from the steering wheel as possible. Ideally, you should leave at least 10 inches of space between your breastbone and the wheel—or your breastbone and the dashboard if you’re the passenger—according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. If leaving this much space isn’t possible, adjust your tilt steering wheel so it’s aimed at your chest instead of your belly.
4. Avoid distractions. Every driver should avoid distractions, but women carrying precious cargo should be especially vigilant about not texting, talking on the phone, applying makeup, or eating while driving.