In a healthy pregnancy, most women will be fine to continue driving as usual while pregnant.
However, for those who drive for work, there can be added risks, such as the long hours spent traveling, the hazards associated with loading equipment in and out of vehicles and increased tiredness and fatigue leading to difficultly concentrating, especially towards the end of the day.
As a result of its work with a high number of global pharmaceutical sales fleets, which often have a higher proportion of women drivers, eDriving Fleet has devised a list of top 10 good practice tips for safe driving while pregnant.
- Where possible, minimise the need to drive. This is particularly important as your pregnancy progresses and your baby grows closer and closer to the steering wheel. Consider public transport or meeting without moving, which are safer options. If you must drive, plan the route to allow for safe breaks (bathroom and leg stretching) and let others know your travel plans. You should also think about your safety and comfort when entering and loading things into your vehicle. The general advice is to avoid all heavy lifting while pregnant.
- Drive carefully. Collisions can be reduced significantly by following general safe driving tips, such as refraining from tailgating by following the three-second rule, avoiding cell phone use and reducing speed.
- Wear your seatbelt at all times. The belt will have no adverse effects on your pregnancy, though it may protect you and your child. When pregnant allow the waist strap to rest below the bump, while the shoulder strap should slide effortlessly across the chest. The lap belt should be secured below your ‘bump’, low and snug on your hipbones. Never wear the belt across or above your belly. Always use the shoulder belt, which should fit snugly between your breasts.
- Position yourself correctly. Move your seat as far back as is comfortable and tilt it slightly away from the steering wheel. Try to position yourself at least 25 centimetres from the steering wheel. Also, make sure the steering wheel is tilted toward your breastbone rather than toward your abdomen. Avoid leaning forward. Sit back against the seat with as little slack in your seatbelt as possible. This will keep your bump from hitting the bottom of the wheel, minimize your forward movement in a crash and let the air bag operate correctly. Air bags are sometimes blamed for causing bodily harm to the driver. While there’s always a chance, you’re far less likely to be injured if you’ve taken the proper air bag precautions.
- If you’re in a collision, get checked over. Even if it’s a minor one and you feel OK, have the baby’s heartbeat checked to make sure no damage has been done. Even if you don’t feel you’ve been hurt, research suggests that pregnant women in crashes without documented injuries are at greater risk of premature labour caused by a placental abruption.
- Take regular breaks. It’s important to keep healthy circulation, particularly in your legs – take regular breaks, even if just for a couple of minutes, so you can stretch your legs.
- Minimise driving at night. Night driving is exponentially more dangerous, and not just for pregnant women. Night driving reduces visibility, increases the chance of encountering a drunk driver and increases fatigue risks.
- Fill up before hitting the road. It is not just the car that needs to be kept topped up during a pregnancy! This is also essential for the mother-to-be behind the wheel. If you’re pregnant, it’s imperative to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level, and that you avoid eating unhealthy food. By eating before you leave the house, and packing some healthy snacks for the road, you can keep your blood sugar in check and eat healthily. Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated is important and extra snacks such as bottled water and fruit should be carried when travelling.
- Prepare for health emergencies. Your health is at greater risk during pregnancy, which multiplies when you get behind the wheel. Packing a travel pillow, toiletries, fully charged mobile phone and additional clothes are recommended. If you are far along in your pregnancy you could find these items particularly handy if a little one decides they are not going to be patient and a delivery needs to be suddenly carried out.
- Stop driving at the best time. As you get closer to your due date, it is a good idea to reduce – or stop – driving. Freedom, independence and your sales bonus are tough to give up, but you should only drive when absolutely necessary. As you enter your third trimester, take a back seat for the safety of you and your child. Although there is no hard and fast rule, many women stop driving around 30 weeks. Around this time, you may find it more difficult to get in and out of your vehicle.
When to START driving again after having your baby
You should also consider when to start driving again after giving birth. If your baby is delivered via caesarean section the usual advice is to wait at least six weeks until driving; although in some situations this may be longer. Many new parents are keen to get ‘back to normal’ after having a baby; but remember your body has been through a lot and needs time to recover. For the first few weeks, sleepless nights are likely to leave you feeling fatigued during the day, so it is wise to avoid driving until you have settled into a routine which enables you to catch up on much-needed sleep.
By following these tips, upcoming mums can reduce the risks to both them and their baby. Note, however, that driving always carries a risk – to be avoided and minimised as far as possible.