11 Rules for a Road Trip While Pregnant

A car trip can be a memorable vacation while pregnant, especially if flying is out of the question, but there are some precautions to take before you hit the road.

Pregnant woman fastening safety belt in car
Photo: Getty Images

Everyone loves a good road trip. And if you're pregnant, a babymoon by car may be exactly what's needed before you're elbows-deep in dirty diapers.

It's generally safe to fly while expecting, but some airlines have a cutoff of 36 weeks (and many even earlier), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pregnant people who do fly should check with their doctors first, but they can make travel safer with simple steps like holding onto seatbacks when walking during turbulence and wearing compression socks to prevent deep vein thrombosis, says the American Pregnancy Association.

Still, road trips can be especially handy if your doctor has put the kibosh on air travel because of pregnancy complications (or if braving the crazy crowded airports sounds like torture). To ensure the only bump on the road is your belly, here are 12 tips pregnant travelers should know before setting off on a long drive.

1. Talk To Your Health Care Provider

No matter the mode of travel, pregnant people should always start by contacting their health care provider, said Kecia Gaither, M.D., maternal fetal medicine specialist affiliated with NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln. "Certain medical conditions may preclude any degree of travel, be it by air or land," says Dr. Gaither. "Those conditions may include placenta previa, prior preterm labor, or clotting disorders."

Placenta previa, for example, happens when the placenta completely or partially covers the cervix. It can cause bleeding during pregnancy, as well as serious complications—like hemorrhage or preterm birth—that would be difficult to navigate in an unfamiliar location.

Additionally, traveling is a risk factor for blood clots, according to the CDC—and pregnant people already have a heightened chance of developing them. Certain conditions and disorders may increase the risk of blood clots too much for long road trips.

2. Plan For Your Second Trimester

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says the ideal time to travel is during the second trimester, between 14 and 28 weeks. "During these weeks, your energy has returned, morning sickness is improved or gone, and you are still able to get around easily," says the organization. "After 28 weeks, it may be harder to move around or sit for a long time."

Not only is the middle of the pregnancy when pregnant people will likely feel the best, but it also carries a lower risk of any complications.

3. Prepare for the Pregnancy Road Trip

Advanced planning can make any road trip more successful. This includes thoughtful packing (like keeping a pregnancy emergency kit on hand) and bringing your OB-GYN's phone number and personal health records with you—just in case you need them. Travelers can also identify nearby hospitals in case of emergency.

4. Drink Enough Water

There's a link between dehydration and uterine contractions, so keeping on top of water intake is crucial, says Dr. Gaither. Keep a water bottle filled with cool water readily available in the car and make sure to drink even more if you've been sweating or exercising. Pregnant people should drink eight to 12 cups (or 64 to 96 ounces) of water each day, according to ACOG. This ensure healthy digestion, amniotic fluid formation, and nutrient circulation.

5. Bring Extra Medications or Supplements

Taking the proper medications and supplements while pregnant is imperative, and it's even more important on a road trip. Dr. Gaither says pregnant travelers will want to double check they've packed any medications and vitamins they need to stay on top of their health while vacationing, but it's also important to bring extra doses in case they're on the road longer than originally anticipated.

6. Always Wear a Seat Belt

Wearing a seat belt in a car is one of the most important car safety tips, especially when you're pregnant. The myth that a seat belt could harm an unborn child is pure fiction, but there's a proper way to wear one if you're pregnant, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Pregnant people should wear the shoulder belt away from their neck and across their chest. The lap belt should be secured below their belly so it fits snugly. Pregnant people should also keep as much distance as possible between their belly and the steering wheel, while still ensuring they can reach the wheel and pedals. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends pregnant people don't disable the air bags.

7. Get Out and Stretch Often

Dr. Gaither says pregnant travelers should stop "at least every two hours" to get the blood flowing back into the lower half of the body, which helps prevent complications like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the legs. These blood clots usually dissolve on their own; however, in rare cases, they can break off, travel to the lungs, and cause a potentially life-threatening blockage called pulmonary embolism.

While the risk for DVT is low, it does increase with pregnancy. The CDC recommends knowing signs of DVT, including swelling and/or redness in the leg or arm, unexplained pain or tenderness, and skin that feels warm when touched. Signs of a pulmonary embolism include difficulty breathing, fast or irregular heartbeat, and chest pain or discomfort. Pregnant people should take steps to prevent blood clots, like moving their legs frequently when on long trips and wearing graduated compression stockings.

8. Dress Comfortably

Being comfortable during pregnancy is key, and that's especially true during a road trip. Luckily, a few essentials can make the ride more relaxing (and safe). Compression socks are always a good idea because they can help prevent DVT. Other helpful travel accessories include a lumbar pillow, comfortable shoes, and a good water bottle (because hydration is key to a healthy pregnancy). Also avoid wearing too-tight clothing.

9. Avoid Bumpy Roads and Remote Locations

There's nothing stopping pregnant people from traveling, but it's always smart to be mindful of where you're going. Avoid extremely bumpy roads, and save the off-roading until after the baby is born. Also don't travel to extremely remote areas where medical care may be difficult to find in case of an emergency.

10. Have an Emergency Plan in Place

Pregnant travelers will want to have a plan in case any unexpected health concerns pop up, as they can happen quickly during pregnancy. If any problems do arise during a road trip, Dr. Gaither recommends travelers contact their health care provider and the nearest hospital for advice and treatment.

11. Relax and Have Fun

There are lots of things to take into consideration when planning a road trip while pregnant, but always remember to have fun! Advanced planning and a comfortable wardrobe will help make the trip easier, but it's imperative to relax when you finally do hit the open road (too much stress during pregnancy isn't healthy for your baby). Plan a trip you're excited for and indulge in a little pre-baby R&R.

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