Enjoying the Road -- Pregnant and Safe

When you're pregnant, it's OK to drive and road trips can still be fun. So what if your seat belt needs a little expansion?

Mid-pregnancy, about weeks 14 to 28, is an ideal time for travel. That's when emergencies are least likely. By week 28, you also may find it harder to move around and sit for a long time.

Check in with your doctor before a planned car trip. Once you get the go-ahead, follow these auto safety tips, whether your road trip is just up the highway or a state or two away.

In Search of the "Safest" Seat

There's folklore about some car seat positions being the safest in a crash. But experts say where a mother sits has no proven effect on the safety of an unborn baby in a crash.

Back seat may be best. However, if you are not driving, choose the back seat. Some say that backseat passengers tend to have fewer injuries.

Keep airbag on. If you sit in the front, push the seat back as far as you can and still drive safely and sit comfortably. It's a good idea to get some distance between your abdomen and the steering wheel or dash. But do keep the airbag on. It works together with your seat belt to keep you and your baby safe.

Seat Belt How-Tos

Wearing a seat belt -- always -- is crucial during pregnancy. It protects you in the same way it did before you were pregnant, only now there are two of you to safeguard. Here's how you use it for two:

  • Wear a 3-point restraint. That means the seat-belt system has both a lap strap and a shoulder strap. The combination keeps you and the baby from being ejected from the car in case of a crash. The shoulder strap keeps your body weight off the baby in case of an accident.
  • Wear the lap belt under your belly, across the hips and as high as you can manage on your thighs. Don't put it across your tummy.
  • Wear the shoulder strap between your breasts, off to the belly's side.
  • Make sure the seat-belt system fits you snugly.

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Driving Times and Pit Stops

Remember, it's a pleasure trip, not the Indy 500. Follow these tips:

  • Limit road time to about 5 or 6 hours a day.
  • Make frequent stops to move around. This way, you can stretch your legs and stay more comfortable.
  • Be patient. As your pregnancy progresses, your bladder may dictate these pit stops!

Just-in-Case Thinking

Adopt a "be safe, not sorry" mindset.

  • If you're going for more than a day trip, look up a hospital or medical clinic close to your destination.
  • If you are involved in a vehicle crash -- even a minor one -- check in with your doctor as soon as possible. It's especially important if you notice stomach pain, leakage from your vagina, or any contractions. That way, you can get the "all clear" and breathe easier.

Open-Road Alternatives

As your pregnancy progresses, car travel might become more uncomfortable, especially if you own a compact model.

Consider train travel, where you can take to the aisles (and the bathrooms) freely. With no driving or navigating duties, you'll also have time to plan your first road trip with the baby.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on June 25, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Travel During Pregnancy."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Pregnancy: Should I Use a Seat Belt?"

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: "The Pregnant Woman's Guide to Buckling Up."

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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