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How to wear a seatbelt when you're pregnant

Driving with a baby bump can be awkward. Motoring writer Maria McCarthy looks at how mums-to-be can remain comfortable behind the wheel.

pregnant driver

Pregnancy is a special time, but of course women want to carry on with their everyday activities as much as possible.

And for most, that includes driving.

Driving while pregnant

"Pregnancy affects women in very different ways," says registered midwife Denise Linay.

"Some breeze through it, have no difficulties and are comfortable driving until the day they deliver.

"But others face problems such as severe morning sickness, which means it's not safe for them to drive at certain times.

"It's best for them to adapt as they go along and take advice from their midwife on any specific health concerns."

Baby bump and seatbelt


One aspect of pregnancy that's going to affect all expectant mothers is developing a baby bump.

This means the seatbelt will have to be positioned differently as incorrect use can harm the baby in the event of a collision.

"The key advice is 'belt under the bump, not across the middle'," says Neil Grieg, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

"The belt should be placed flat across the thighs and tight up against the hip bones with the cross belt between the breasts."

Clunk click every trip

Wearing a seatbelt is required by law which doesn’t change when you’re pregnant.

Grieg says that expectant mothers should resist the temptation to drive without wearing a seatbelt.

"In an accident, a person is far more likely to die by being ejected from a vehicle or hitting the inside of the car, than be injured by the belt itself," Grieg explains.

The UK government road safety campaign has produced a free, downloadable leaflet, entitled Buckle up for baby and you.

It has illustrations of the correct way that the seatbelt should be worn during pregnancy.

Specially adapted seatbelts for pregnant women

It’s possible to buy seatbelts specifically adapted for use by pregnant women.

There are pregnancy seat belts you can buy which essentially extend it to fit comfortably around your bump.

However, midwife Linay believes that most women will be fine using the regular seatbelt.

She says: "Pregnancy and having a new baby can be an expensive time, and there's no need to spend extra money on extra items that you might not get much use out of."

Morning sickness and driving

pregnant finger

Some mums-to-be suffer with morning sickness, but during the parts of the day when the expectant mother feels fine there is no reason why she shouldn’t drive.

However, it's important not to do so when in the grip of nausea, or when the expectant mother has reason to believe she'll feel unwell during the journey.

"If anything is going to be distracting then it's best not to get behind the wheel," says Linay.

"I know that this can be very difficult, especially for women who need to get to work or have other children to take to school, but safety always has to take priority."

Driving tips for pregnant women

As the mum-to-be gets bigger she might want to move the car seat back and that’s fine as long as the mirrors are adjusted accordingly and she can still reach the pedals.

"The vast majority of women remain flexible enough to turn in their seat to do manoeuvres and can climb in and out of the car without difficulty," says Greig.

"But if it does start to be a struggle then it's advisable to stop driving."

Swollen ankles and leg cramps can be additional symptoms of pregnancy, and if they cause discomfort when driving then it's best to confine motoring to short trips or stop altogether.

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Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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