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Driving while pregnant

A pregnant woman at the wheel.

If you're expecting a baby, you might be wondering what implications this has on your driving. Is it safe to get behind the wheel when pregnant? At what point during your pregnancy should you stop driving altogether?

The bottom line is that driving during pregnancy should be absolutely fine, as long as you're not suffering from any symptoms that could affect your safety on the road – like dizziness, nausea or extreme fatigue.

If you've got questions about driving during pregnancy, we hope to answer them in this handy guide.

Can you still drive when pregnant?

Every mother-to-be's pregnancy journey is different, but most expectant women feel happy and comfortable driving as normal.

Before every car journey, ask yourself: do I feel well enough to drive? As the Baby Centre explains, many women experience nausea and fatigue during the first trimester – if you're one of them, then you should only drive when you feel alert and well-rested.

How long can you drive when pregnant?

There's no cut-off date for when you should give up driving. But it's important to assess whether you still feel safe enough to drive when your mobility starts to be affected during the latter stages of your pregnancy.

If, for example, your bump is making it difficult to get in and out of the car, reach the steering wheel with ease or pull certain manoeuvres, these are all signs that it's time to give up driving for the time being.

What about driving long distances while pregnant?

It's best to keep long car journeys to a minimum, unless absolutely necessary. This is because long periods of time spent in a car could cause swollen feet or ankles and leg cramp. Plus, it's likely you'll need to stop for a lot of loo breaks!

How can I drive comfortably while pregnant?

If you need to make a long car journey, or simply want to make sure you stay comfy during every drive, here are some tips:

  • If it's a long journey, see if someone is willing to split the driving with you (making sure they're insured to drive your car).
  • Stop at least once an hour to stretch your legs and get some fresh air (no doubt you'll need to visit the toilet anyway).
  • Achy or swollen feet and ankles? There are stretches that can help – flex your foot, rotate your ankle and wiggle your toes!
  • Pack a bag with a couple of bottles of water and some healthy snacks to keep your energy levels up during the drive.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes – you don't want a waistband digging in and distracting you.
  • Consider storing some pregnancy-safe motion sickness tablets in your glovebox, just in case you feel nauseous (pull over in a safe place if this happens).
  • Don't make the journey if you don't feel up for it – even if you think it's an essential trip, it's simply not worth risking the safety of you and your unborn baby.

Do I need to wear a seatbelt when pregnant?

Yes – you still need to wear a seatbelt when you're pregnant. As the Gov.UK website explains, the only time you don't need to wear one is if your doctor says you don't have to due to medical reasons. In this case, you'll be given a ‘Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Belt Wearing,' which must be kept in your vehicle at all times. The police will ask to see if it you get pulled over for not wearing a belt.

The NCT website shares some useful tips on wearing a seatbelt when pregnant:

  • Always wear a three-point seatbelt.
  • Place the shoulder belt over the shoulder, collarbone and down across the chest, between the breasts.
  • Keep the lap belt as low as possible under your bump.
  • Adjust the seatbelt so it fits as comfortably as possible, and the seat too if necessary.

Should you turn the airbag off when pregnant?

Airbags will protect you and your unborn baby if you're involved in an accident, so don't turn them off. This is provided you're wearing your seatbelt properly, by following the tips listed above.

While airbags are considered safe, you might want to move your seat back and tilt it so there's more distance between your bump and the wheel. Just make sure you can still reach the wheel easily (a cushion can be used to raise you a little higher).

Do I need to tell my insurer I'm pregnant?

You shouldn't need to tell your insurer you're pregnant. The only thing you need to be aware of is if you have a c-section, doctors will usually suggest you don't drive for around six weeks. It's important you follow their advice.

Where should a pregnant woman sit in a car?

If you're a passenger in a car, sitting in one of the back seats may be better than the front passenger seat. UK road traffic collision data cited by Road Safety GB shows that it's safer to sit in the back. Children under 12 years should definitely be confined to the rear seats.

The NHS suggests that pregnant women should avoid long car journeys if possible and if they're travelling over 4 hours, to wear compression socks to aid circulation in the legs.

What should you do if you're involved in an accident?

If you're involved in an accident – even a minor one – it's really important to get yourself checked over by a doctor.

It's possible for a sudden jolt to cause issues, like a partially-separated placenta. If you're in pain, start to bleed or have contractions after the accident, see a doctor straight away. Make sure you tell the doctor if you're in a rhesus negative blood group, because you might need an anti-D injection.

Also bear in mind that you'll need to report the accident to the police as well as your insurance provider.

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