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Travelling by car is an integral part of our lives. Whether you have to travel to work or attend a social event, or go for that long-awaited holiday with family and friends, you put that seat belt in place whenever you’re on the driver’s seat or in the passenger seat, and you’re off to your destination. You don’t think twice about this action, do you? But you may give a second thought to it now that you’re pregnant. While pregnant you may want to take the road so that you can halt whenever needed for restroom breaks or just to stretch your legs and get the circulation going, but is it safe to travel by car during pregnancy? Let’s find out!
Is Travelling By Care Safe During Pregnancy?
Being pregnant does not mean that you should refrain from having fun and enjoying the good things in life. Going for long drives or taking short weekend breaks are certainly recommended to keep you in a happy state of mind. As a mother-to-be, you will certainly have the best in mind for your baby and you are not going to take a cross-country trip at this time. As long as you are able to take enough breaks and stretch your legs at regular intervals, there is no reason for you to not travel by car during pregnancy.
But you must take enough precautions for your baby’s safety and yours. Travelling in India can be tricky especially while moving away from highways and travelling on narrow, bumpy roads. Lack of amenities like hygienic restrooms and eating joints can make travel stressful for a pregnant mom. But a private car is better than taking the bus since you can take unscheduled stops and remain in control of your travel schedule.
That being said, if yours is a high-risk pregnancy or you have complications such as cervical incompetence, low lying placenta, or placenta previa, etc., it is better that you avoid travelling by car during pregnancy.
How to Stay Comfortable
The following tips will help you if you are going to undertake travelling during early pregnancy in a car. If you remain comfortable through the trip, your baby will be comfortable too. it will help you to enjoy the time spent in the company of family and friends:
- If you’re on a trip, confirm and re-confirm your travel bookings at the hotel resort and do not forget to carry booking receipts, IDs, etc. Check the route you plan to take to avoid long and unexpected detours.
- In order to avoid leg cramps or swelling of feet and ankles, avoid sitting in one place for long durations. Plan a break every 90 minutes or so to stretch those cramped muscles (or whenever you feel like visiting the washroom).
- Comfortable clothes and footwear are a must while travelling so ditch those tight jeans or tops. Loose clothing will help you relax and assume any sitting position you would prefer.
- While taking a break, choose a suitable place and rotate your ankles and toes. Flex your foot to get the blood flowing and do simple stretches if the space permits.
- Undertaking car travel during the third trimester of pregnancy will need special precautions. Keep a list ready of known hospitals and clinics on your route in case of emergency and your doctor/gynaecologist’s mobile number on speed dial.
- Avoid long, winding roads if you are in your first trimester as nausea and morning sickness will give you a hard time. The second trimester is a better time to travel since a lot of things have settled down.
- Carry a cushion and place it at the small of your back while travelling. This will prevent a backache that is common during pregnancy especially in the later stages.
- Do not consume raw foods or non-vegetarian foods at roadside establishments unless you are sure of their origins. It is best to carry fruits, veggies like carrots, dry fruits or homemade sandwiches to satisfy your hunger pangs while travelling.
- Try to stay away from the steering wheel as it will be an uncomfortable experience as the baby bump grows bigger.
- Travel light and carry only all that is absolutely necessary. You will need space to stretch your legs and additional luggage will cramp you for space.
The Importance of Seat Belts
Everyone should wear seat belts while travelling by car, whether pregnant or not, as they are the single most effective way of saving lives in case of an accident. When you are pregnant, you are responsible for two lives and hence it becomes mandatory to follow this rule. The lap and shoulder belt combination is the safest type for pregnant women. The belt is placed across the lap, below the belly, thus avoiding any pressure on the baby. Ensure that the shoulder belt fits properly across the centre of your chest and shoulder area and it is never under your arm.
What About Using Airbags?
If you are driving or sitting on the passenger seat in front, make sure your belly is at a safe distance from the steering and the airbag. The impact of the airbag in case of an accident should never affect the baby in any way. Always maintain a distance of 10 inches to 1 foot between your breastbone from the dashboard to remain safe and keep your baby secure. Moving the seat back will help serve this purpose, especially as your tummy and the baby grow in size.
Is it Safe to Use Car Perfumes?
Although we regularly use car perfumes to liven up things and drive bad odours from the vehicle, it is necessary to be careful if you have a pregnant woman in the car. One should check the products for safety before using them in the car. Some perfumes can trigger irritation of the eyes, throat and skin. It can also initiate a vomiting sensation. Some car perfumes contain phthalates which can enter the bloodstream through inhalation and even absorption through the skin. In some cases, this could cause birth defects and hormonal anomalies. It is best to make minimum use of car perfumes and open the car windows to keep it well-ventilated.
Steps to Follow If the Car Breaks Down
It is a tricky situation changing a flat tire or an oil leak with a baby bump to take care of. Take the following steps if your car breaks down or there are any other emergencies:
- Pull your car to the extreme left as far as possible to avoid further mishaps.
- Turn your wheels towards the right.
- Pull the handbrake if you are on an incline.
- Put on hazard lights and headlights.
- Check your location and call highway assistance for help.
- If you are calling the vehicle breakdown company, use the emergency phone instead of your mobile phone as it helps them to locate you.
- Do not attempt to change tires on your own if you are alone.
- Exit from the left side of the vehicle to stay away from the passing traffic.
- Try to recollect the last landmark you have passed or any signs of petrol pumps if you must walk to get help.
- Do not panic as it won’t help. Take deep breaths and relax, help will soon be on its way.
What to Do In Case of a Car Accident
In case of an unfortunate incident while driving, tell anyone who has arrived for help that you are pregnant. This is particularly important if you are in the early stages of pregnancy and the bump isn’t visible yet. Let the doctors know if you have an Rh-negative blood group so you can be treated accordingly.
Although your baby has enough cushioning in the form of the fluid around it, it is best to get yourself checked, even if you feel absolutely fine. The placenta can get separated partially from the uterus if you have suffered a powerful impact or jolt during the accident and you may not notice any visible symptoms. In case of bleeding or contractions after the accident, you should meet a doctor at the earliest.
Precautions to Be Taken
If you have decided to travel by road then there are a few basic precautions you have to take for car safety during pregnancy. You will enjoy the trip and have total peace of mind during the journey. These precautions are as follows:
- If your journey time extends beyond a couple of hours, it makes great sense to carry some extra water bottles to avoid dehydration. It can also be used to keep your car hydrated in case of overheating.
- Avoid travelling alone when you are pregnant from a safety point of view. Having a friend or a family member is always recommended, especially over long distances and where night travel is involved.
- Before starting on the journey, check if the car has a spare tire in its boot. A toolkit with a hydraulic jack is necessary to change tires without much of a hassle.
- Begin your journey early in the morning so you can reach your destination before night.
- Check news regularly for any political rallies or unrest and any traffic diversions planned on your route.
- Vehicle insurance, PUC and insurance documents are mandatory while travelling, so carry them with you. Carry your identity proof in case of accidents, etc.
- Keep your medical records, your doctor’s contact details and other emergency contact numbers handy in your handbag.
- Talking on the mobile while driving or messaging or fiddling with the radio are a complete no-no.
- Charge your mobile phone before you start and carry a charger or a power bank for emergency purposes.
- Get a good night’s sleep the earlier night to avoid dozing at the wheel if you are driving.
- Service your vehicle a couple of days before your journey. Fill enough fuel to last for the journey and also check insurance/PUC expiry dates. Renew immediately if required.
Although car travel provides a lot of freedom in terms of scheduling and stops for restroom breaks etc., do not push yourself if you do not feel up to it. Check if trains are available as they are an extremely convenient mode of transport and safe too. In case you have to travel by road, follow the instructions given above and give maximum priority to your safety and your baby’s safety during the journey.
Also Read: Air Travel During Pregnancy