Many activities become more dangerous while pregnant. Carrying a baby comes with unique risks to you and your unborn child. Recognizing potential hazards and how to mitigate them can prevent serious injuries to you and your baby. Although driving can have unique risks for pregnant women, you can retain your independence far into your pregnancy with a few essential safety tips.

Assess How You Feel

Sit in the passenger seat and get rides as much as possible during your pregnancy instead of driving. The passenger seat does not have a steering wheel that could cause your infant serious injuries in a car accident. If you do need to drive, however, first assess how you feel. Pregnancy can bring many uncomfortable sensations. If you feel tired, nauseous, dizzy or lightheaded, avoid driving. These feelings could lead to emergencies on the road, such as having to pull over quickly on a busy highway. Trust your instincts to tell you if you are able to drive.

Do Not Drive Drowsy

Drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving in that it significantly impairs a driver’s ability to watch the road, make sound judgment calls, react to dangerous situations and safely control the vehicle. Some women experience fatigue while pregnant, potentially posing a hazard behind the wheel. If you are exceptionally tired, avoid driving during your pregnancy. If you must drive, watch for signs of drowsiness, such as heavy eyelids, slow blinking and daydreaming. Pull over and take a nap if you feel tired.

Use the Seat Belt Correctly

The position of a seat belt is one of the main reasons pregnant women stop driving. The belt can feel awkward and uncomfortable over a growing belly. If you are uncomfortable in your car because of a tight seat belt, consider purchasing Tummy Shield. This is a cushion that goes in your seat to help you wear your seat belt correctly, across your lap instead of your stomach. Never drive with the seat belt pressed against your stomach. This could place your unborn baby in danger in an accident. The lap belt should be snug across your upper thighs and the shoulder belt should run across your chest – never behind your back or under your arm.

Find a Safe and Comfortable Position

Find a comfortable position while driving pregnant. Remove extra layers such as jackets to help the seat belt cover you correctly and comfortably. Find a position as far away from the steering wheel as possible. If you sit too close, the wheel could strike your belly in an accident, potentially causing life-threatening injuries to your child. Tilt the steering wheel up rather than down at your abdomen to prevent the airbag from deploying directly into your stomach.

Slow Down

Avoid sharp turns and harsh stops as much as possible. While these tips apply even when you are not pregnant, while pregnant, this type of driving could affect your infant or cause pregnancy complications. Slow your vehicle down and take it easy. Drive in the slow lane, reduce your speed and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Plan for frequent bathroom breaks on your trip to stay comfortable. Drive as safely as possible, obeying all roadway rules, to help prevent an accident.

Know If and When to Stop Driving

In the past, physicians recommended not to drive in your third trimester of pregnancy. Since then, however, the rules have changed. Now, pregnant women can drive through the ends of their pregnancies, as long as they can do so safely, securely and comfortably. Listen to your body when deciding if and when to stop driving as you come closer to full term. If you can no longer sit, turn or control the vehicle comfortably, take the passenger seat. Otherwise, feel free to continue driving up until your delivery date. If you get into an auto accident, go to the hospital immediately for a checkup.