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Driving while pregnant

So long as you're feeling well, driving while pregnant is usually safe. In fact, most mums-to-be rely on their cars to carry out their daily tasks, particularly as their bumps grow and walking becomes more of a strain.

In the final few months of pregnancy, your ever-growing bump could start to affect your mobility. You might find it tricky getting in and out of the car, while your bump may start to get in the way of the steering wheel. Not only that, but your pregnancy might tire you out, which can affect your driving ability.

The top priority's to make sure you and your baby are both safe and comfortable in the car. To help, we've put together a simple guide to driving while pregnant, which includes information on seatbelts and airbags, as well as top tips for travelling safely.

Wearing a seatbelt

Being pregnant doesn't mean you're exempt from wearing a seatbelt — you still need to clip in at all times. The only instance where you don't need to wear a seatbelt's if you've received a medical exemption certificate from your GP, which you'll need to carry in the car with you just in case you're stopped by the police.

Three-point seatbelts are the safest belts for expectant mothers. You should avoid lap-only belts as they can put unnecessary pressure on your unborn child, particularly if you have to brake suddenly.

The lap part of your three-point seatbelt should be positioned underneath your bump, across your thighs and tight up against your hip bones. The diagonal shoulder part of the belt should be placed over your collarbone and between your breasts, resting against your shoulder as opposed to your neck.

Most women cope fine with a normal seatbelt, but if you're finding it uncomfortable you can buy a specific pregnancy belt which extends to fit around your bump. You can also buy a seatbelt pad for added comfort.

Airbags

It's safe to drive with an airbag when you're pregnant, so long as you're wearing your seatbelt in the right way and have your seat set in the appropriate position (which we'll get to in a moment). In the event of a collision, the airbag will limit impact by providing extra cushioning for you and your bump.

Safe driving tips

Comfort first

Making sure you're fully comfortable before you set off will help you to remain fully focused on the road when driving. In terms of your driving position, sit as far away from the steering wheel as possible while still being able to reach the pedals — in some cars, the pedals can be adjusted. You should also recline your seat a little to leave a gap between your bump and the wheel.

Make sure you wear comfy clothes while driving, such as light tops to keep you cool and trousers with elasticated waistbands. Your driving style can also improve your journey; for instance, gradual acceleration and deceleration will reduce the likelihood of any sudden stops or bursts of speed.

Avoid long journeys

Being pregnant can really take it out on you, so long car trips should be avoided whenever possible. If you do find yourself having to travel a longer distance, it's important to take regular breaks — at the very least 15 minutes every couple of hours.

For added peace of mind, you should try to always drive with a passenger when nearing the end of your pregnancy. If you have to drive alone, make sure your phone's fully-charged and pack your pregnancy documents, just in case.

Don't drive if you're feeling unwell

Many mums-to-be can suffer from morning sickness. If you're one of them, avoid driving in the morning as feeling nauseous could impact your concentration. If you need to drive, see if you can make other arrangements until the sickness has passed.

Stretch

A little movement can work wonders for relieving driving discomfort. If you've got cramp in your legs or swollen feet and ankles, stop for a rest and stretch your legs. There are some in-car movements you can do when you're parked up too, such as flexing your foot, rotating your ankle and wiggling your toes.

See a doctor if you're involved in a collision

If you're involved in a car accident, it's important to get yourself and your baby checked over by a doctor as soon as you can, regardless of how minor the incident is.

Don't drive if you don't feel up to it

Before setting off on any trip, you need to assess whether or not you feel well enough, and confident enough, to get behind the wheel. If you don't feel up to it then don't drive — it's simply not worth the risk.

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