Unless you live in an area well-serviced by public transport, driving a car is likely to be a necessity at some point during your pregnancy. The risks of car driving, however, are increased with pregnancy and precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of your and your unborn baby.

Why pregnant women need to take extra precautions

Pregnancy presents a set of almost daily challenges for women, and their bodies undergo significant changes throughout the 40 weeks of its duration. Feelings of nausea or faintness are common and, if overwhelming, they can affect the safe operation of a vehicle. Swelling, cramps and muscle tightness may also make driving uncomfortable and become a distraction – it’s important to take precautions or actions to prevent or account for these when they arise.

Wearing a seatbelt is the law

At all stages of your pregnancy, and in every state and territory of Australia, it is the law to wear a seatbelt. Wearing a seatbelt while you’re pregnant reduces the risk of injury to you or your unborn baby.

The safest way to wear a seatbelt while you’re pregnant is to adjust the lower strap to rest beneath your bump and across your pelvis. The upper, diagonal strap should come down between your breasts and must not be loose.

Staying comfortable

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement.
  • Ensure the climate inside the car is optimal, and have water and snacks within reach for whenever you’re hungry or thirsty.
  • If necessary, adjust the steering wheel to ensure you can comfortably and safely operate the car.
  • Use a small cushion to support your back or try rolling up some clothing.
  • Stretch before and after you use the car to increase your circulation and relieve any tired muscles.

For longer trips

Avoid taking longer trips on your own – try to partner up with someone to either share the driving duties or manage the driving on your behalf. If you are taking long car trips late in your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to keep your pregnancy plan in your bag. To avoid feeling rushed, factor into your total travel time more frequent rest stops and bathroom breaks.

Know your limits

At some point in the later stages of your pregnancy, it may be time to give up driving. Your growing bump can impede your ability to use the steering wheel and the car’s other controls, and getting in and out of the driver’s seat can become increasingly difficult.

Plan ahead and ensure you’re prepared with alternative modes of transport or the support of people close to you when the time to stop driving comes; don’t put yourself under undue pressure to keep driving when it’s unsafe or uncomfortable to do so.