Pregnancy and the road: Staying comfortable and safe in the car

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It can be really hard to stay off the roads. When you are pregnant, the need to drive becomes even more pressing as preparations for your upcoming bundle of joy take center stage. There are doctor appointments, shopping, moving and coordinating that must all be done within the short window of pregnancy.

However, these are unprecedented times, and coronavirus had presented new challenges for the average pregnancy that did not exist before. There is still a lot to do to prepare for a baby, but now with the added burden of the ever-present concerns about illness. With the coronavirus vaccine roll-out becoming more widespread, new mothers everywhere are beginning to breathe a collective sigh of relief as they begin to emerge from their homes and catch up on all that COVID has thrown to the wayside.

Of course, it is not just pregnant women who are beginning to leave their homes, and traffic is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels everywhere. Regardless of whether you are driving cross-country to finally visit family or just down the street to the store, there are some things that pregnant women can do to stay safe on increasingly busy roads.

In this article:

Is it safe to travel while pregnant?

Even before COVID, many women wonder if they can safely travel when pregnant, but it all depends. Everyone’s medical history is different, and if you have a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor may recommend that you avoid travel as much as possible. Before you hit the road, you should consult your medical professional for the best advice.

Common Concerns

These are some common health concerns to consider when traveling while pregnant.

Zika and Malaria

A simple mosquito bite could lead to possible hospitalization and birth defects. If you are traveling to an area with a risk of zika or malaria, you should immediately contact your doctor about your plans and ask them for tips on mitigating the risk.

Food and Water

Before you travel to your next exciting destination, be sure to pack enough food and water to tide you over for the trip. Pregnant women are typically more at risk for dehydration or food poisoning complications, so it might be better to be prepared with food and water from familiar sources.

Prenatal Care

More extended travel will require a more in-depth health plan. If you plan on extended travel, work with your doctor to develop a game plan that ensures your continued prenatal health while you are gone. Depending on the length of your stay, you may need to find a temporary doctor in your new locale.

Car safety checklist

Another easy way to help ensure the safety of you and your unborn baby while traveling pregnant is to keep your car road-ready. Whether you are a passenger or a driver, consider reviewing a car safety checklist before you hit the road. You can do some easy things to keep your car maintained and for a safe and seamless ride.

Vehicle maintenance

Maintaining your car does not have to be a complicated or expensive venture. There are several ways to keep your vehicle in top shape from home.

When preparing for travel, be sure to check these items on your vehicle.

  • Tire pressure: Proper tire pressure not only ensures a smoother ride, but your car will also respond better to steering, and it can extend the overall life of your tires and vehicle. To check your tire pressure, all you need is a tire pressure gauge and an air compressor, which can be purchased at an auto store or found at your local gas station. If you do not have an air compressor, some gas stations even offer free air.
  • Power steering fluid: Power steering fluid is critical to ensure easier steering by keeping the steering components fully lubricated and protected against corrosion. Consult your manufacturer’s manual to see what kind of lubrication is necessary for your specific vehicle.
  • Brakes: Your brakes are a critical part of everyday driving, so it is only natural for them to wear down over time. Your car manual will advise on exact maintenance schedules, but the time between maintenance depends on how much you drive and whether you live in a high-traffic or rural area. It is a good idea to take your car to a mechanic to have the brakes inspected regularly. Depending on your car, you may even be able to do a visual inspection of your brake pads at home.
  • Air filter: The air filter keeps the engine clean, working like a sieve to keep out dirt and harmful contaminants. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend changing your air filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles, but it is best to consult your car’s manual.
  • Lights: Your car’s lights and signals are your primary form of communication with other drivers on the road, letting others know when you are turning, stopping or reversing. Your hazard lights are also important, expressing distress if you run into trouble, so regularly check your vehicle’s exterior lights to ensure all are in working order. These types of lights can easily be changed out at home on many models.
  • Antifreeze and/or coolant: Antifreeze, also known as coolant, helps your vehicle from overheating and also maintains proper temperatures even during extreme weather. When you change your oil, be sure to also check antifreeze and coolant levels to ensure your engine is kept in top working order.
  • Wheel alignment: Proper wheel alignment can save you money on gas, prevent unnecessary wear and tear and allow for a smoother, safer ride. You should get a wheel alignment every two to three years, depending on your manufacturer’s recommendation and how much you drive.

When you consult your vehicle’s manual, be sure to check whether there are any additional maintenance measures that you should take before you hit the road.

Health safety checklist

Some items are essential to keep on hand during travel to help ensure the health, safety and comfort of mama and baby while away from home.

  1. Nutritional snacks: Keep some easy-to-eat, non-perishable snacks that provide extra nutritional value nearby during your trip. Multi-grain crackers, trail mix and fruits like apples, pears and bananas are great for boosting vitamins and nutrients. Individual cups of peanut butter or guacamole are great for dipping, and a pudding cup is a sweet treat that can also help your baby’s developing bones.
  2. Prenatal vitamins and other medication: Prenatal vitamins are a critical component of your growing baby’s health, so you should keep your doctor’s recommended brand on hand while you travel. Be sure to pack any other prescribed medications that you are taking to prevent any unnecessary health issues.
  3. Comfortable closed-toe shoes: If you end up outside your vehicle, you will not want to deal with closed-toe shoes. Your trip may also require some walking or standing, so comfortable shoes are a must to ensure your comfort.
  4. Extra water: Water has countless benefits to both a pregnant mom and a growing fetus, with medical experts recommending 64 to 96 ounces of water each day for pregnant women. Travel can also contribute to dehydration, so be sure to keep enough water bottles on hand so you can stay fully hydrated at all times.
  5. Antibacterial wipes: Coronavirus demonstrated the need to keep things sterile, so do not forget your antibacterial wipes before hitting the road. There are several EPA-recommended disinfectants that you can use during stops and bathroom breaks.
  6. Pregnancy pops: Pregnancy pops or other anti-nausea medicines are a must-have when that first strike of nausea hits. Morning sickness is an especially common side effect of pregnancy, so ask your doctor which treatments are best for you and stock up before leaving town.
  7. Lip balm/lotion: As a pregnant mom, you can use a little help when sharing all of your nutrients with your baby. Chapped lips are especially common, so choose a lip balm or chapstick with extra-moisturizing coconut oil and shea butter to help with the skin irritation common during pregnancy.
  8. Compression socks: These socks are a great way to massage the muscles and help with swelling. Compression socks not only help with swelling, but they can also help reduce your risk of blood clots when sitting for long periods and prevent varicose veins, too.

You can also ask your doctor if any other items could make you more comfortable while traveling.

Enjoying road trips while pregnant

If you are planning on taking an especially long road trip, there are some additional items that can help ensure your comfort.

Tricks to staying comfortable

Even with the most comfortable vehicle, you are likely to feel the effects of the road after a few hours. When packing your travel bag, consider adding these items to help you feel more comfortable.

  • Bring a travel pillow. Consider a lumbar pillow, which can cradle your back and take pressure off your spine. There are many travel versions that can be easily inflated and deflated when you are on the go.
  • Stay hydrated. Several hours on the road can lead to extreme thirst and even dehydration, so be sure to skip sugary juice and stick to water. It is essential if you travel to an area with extreme temperatures, like the tropics or desert.
  • Eat well before and during the trip. Ensure that you have the right food by packing things like raisins, nuts, granola bars, unsalted or whole-grain pretzels, and pregnancy snack bars. Healthy, nutritious snacks can help minimize nausea while giving you and your baby the sustenance you need.
  • Plan for lots of breaks. Pregnant women typically need more breaks than the average person on the road, with one 15-minute break recommended every 1-2 hours. Not only does this ensure healthy blood flow, but you can also use the bathroom, grab a snack and stretch your legs.
  • Start with a full tank. The last thing any pregnant woman wants is to be stranded on the side of the road, so fill up your gas tank before you hit the road. Be sure to monitor your tank throughout your trip and stop for gas far before empty, especially if you are traveling in rural areas where gas stations may be more limited.
  • Wear your comfiest maternity clothes. Travel can be uncomfortable after a while, so make sure you are prepared for the trip with the right kind of clothes. Wear slip-on shoes, and choose soft, cozy knits and materials that stretch to accommodate your growing body.
  • Avoid travel to remote places. Gas is not the only thing that may be limited in a remote area. Cell phone service may be limited, and if you go into labor or experience a medical issue, there may not be adequate medical care nearby.

Bottom line

As more Americans across the country take the coronavirus vaccine, it is incredibly likely that there will be an increase in travel. For pregnant women, that means some necessary safety measures to ensure the health of both mom and baby while you are away from home. Many of these measures are also good preparation for simply traveling more often in your local community while pregnant, too.

While there are still several travel advisories in place, some vacation destinations are a better fit for pregnant women. It is a good idea to check for COVID infection rates and travel advisories, and any local risks that could impact your health and travel. Expectant moms need to be near critical resources like local medical care, and a more rural area without cell service and adequate resources creates an inherent risk that could endanger your baby.

Another critical part of the preparation process is packing. Schedule an appointment with your local mechanic, and have your car inspected and prepared for travel. Pack yourself carry-on bags, so you can keep all of your favorite snacks and comfort items close.

We all need a vacation after the roller coaster of COVID. Pregnant moms just need a little more preparation before they hit the road.

Written by
Lena Borrelli
Insurance Contributor
Lena Muhtadi Borrelli has several years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as allconnect, Healthline and Reviews.com. She previously worked for Morgan Stanley.