Driving while pregnant

Before you hop into a car while pregnant, here’s all of the information you should have.

Driving when pregnant: the basics

It’s absolutely fine to keep driving when you’re pregnant. That is, unless you’re feeling uncomfortable with nausea, too exhausted to concentrate or physically struggling to get behind the steering wheel.

Don’t forget to take your pregnancy notes with you when you’re in the later stages too, just in case you go into labour. And always have your charged mobile with you.

Oh, and make sure you pack a bag full of snacks and drinks with you. That way you’re well prepared if that unpredictable pregnancy thirst or hunger strikes. 

Pregnancy seat belt rules

Road accidents can be a concern when you’re pregnant. If you do have a car accident, you should always get checked out – no matter how ok you feel.

However, there are many ways to stay as safe as possible when you jump in a car. If you’re pregnant, you should:

  • Always wear a three-point seat belt.
  • Make sure the shoulder belt goes over the shoulder, collarbone and down across the chest, between the breasts.
  • Make sure the lap belt is worn as low as possible under the abdomen and the baby.
  • Adjust the seat belt to fit as comfortably as possible, and adjust the seat too if necessary.

(Hendey and Votey, 1994; Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries, 2011)

Wearing a seat belt while pregnant – as always – is compulsory unless your doctor says you don’t have to for medical reasons. If that’s the case, you’ll be given a Certificate of Exemption from Compulsory Seat Beat Wearing that you’ll need to keep in your car (Gov.UK, 2018).

Airbag wise, it’s totally safe to be in a car with them in during pregnancy. Airbags will protect you and your baby in certain sorts of crashes (Johnson and Pring, 2005).

Pregnancy and driving: taking regular stops

You might get uncomfortable sitting down in the same position for a while if you’re suffering from heartburn. Or you might have a tiny elbow or foot poking you in the ribs and you can’t get up for a move around. So make sure you leave time to stop and stretch your legs regularly.

You might also need extra toilet breaks so factor those in. 

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pregnancy

For anyone travelling for more than four hours in a car, there is a risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (NHS, 2018). During pregnancy, if you drive or are even just a passenger in a car, try to do the following:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat natural energy food like fruit and nuts, and stop regularly for breaks. That should help to prevent fatigue and dizziness, which are common during pregnancy.
  • Avoid making long trips by yourself as much as possible and consider sharing driving with someone else. 
  • Stop every 90 minutes so you can move around and stretch your legs. Oh, and if you’re not the driver, do a few leg exercises like flexing your ankles while on the move too.
  • If you’re able to adjust the tilt of the steering wheel, tilt it towards your breastbone rather than your belly.

(ACOG, 2016, 2017; NHS, 2016, 2018)

This page was last reviewed in May 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

ACOG. (2016) Car safety for pregnant women, babies and children. Available from: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Car-Safety-for-Pregnant-Women-Babies-and-Children [Accessed 22nd May 2018]

ACOG. (2017) Travel during pregnancy. Available from: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Travel-During-Pregnancy [Accessed 15th May 2018]

Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE). (2006) Saving mothers’ lives: reviewing maternal deaths to make motherhood safer: the eighth report on confidential enquiries into maternal deaths in the United Kingdom. 118(1):1-203. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21356004 [Accessed 22nd May 2018]

Gov.UK. (2018) Seat belts: the law. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/seat-belts-law/when-you-dont-need-to-wear-a-seat-belt [Accessed 22nd May 2018]

Hendey GW, Votey SR. (1994) Injuries in restrained motor vehicle accident victims. Ann Emerg Med. 24(1):77-84. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8010553 [Accessed 22nd May 2018]

Johnson HC, Pring DW. (2005) Car seatbelts in pregnancy: the practice and knowledge of pregnant women remain causes for concern. BJOG. 107(5):644-647. Available from: https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2000.tb13307.x [Accessed 22nd May 2018]

NHS. (2016) Travelling in pregnancy. 2016. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/travel-pregnant/#car-travel-in-pregnancy [Accessed 22nd May 2018]

NHS. (2018) Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in pregnancy. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/dvt-blood-clot-pregnant/ [Accessed 22nd May 2018]

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