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'Belt under bump' pregnant drivers told

Pregnant women touching her stomachDriving while pregnant can be awkward due to the baby bump. Motoring writer Maria McCarthy looks at how mums-to-be can remain comfortable behind the wheel.

Pregnancy is a very special time, but of course women also 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 & 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."

Resist temptation to not buckle up

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

"In the event of an accident, the woman 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 is possible to buy seatbelts specifically adapted for use by pregnant women.

There's the Clippasafe Advanced Bump Belt at £24.99 or the piXie Pregnancy Seatbelt Harness at £159.95, among others.

But 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 & driving

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 should not 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 is 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.

Basic car maintenance

Finally, keeping the car well-maintained is especially important for expectant mums.

A car breakdown would be even more inconvenient than usual when pregnant, and of course it's important to do everything possible to avoid accidents.

We're here to help! Watch our short video guide on basic car maintenance to help you keep your vehicle in tip-top condition.


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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.

View more from Maria

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