Many women have opted to put an abrupt end to all physical activities such as horse riding, 4-wheel driving, running, exercise and more once they discover they are pregnant. Others have taken an alternate approach by first consulting with their midwives before embarking on any physical sports and have resumed to the daily activities of life as per usual. There seem to be two trains of thought with regards to rigorous outdoor activities including 4-wheel driving when pregnant. Let’s look into the facts.
So can you 4-wheel drive while pregnant? If you are between the third and 8th week after conception then the answer is a definitive, NO. The baby is most vulnerable at this phase of development with major organs starting to develop. This period is the greatest risk for birth defects (3-8 weeks after conception) Off-roading during this phase of the pregnancy is strongly discouraged.
So when is it safe to do physical activities while pregnant and when is the baby least at risk? We will also discuss how 4-wheel driving can affect a pregnant mother as well as the changes that happen to a mother’s body when she becomes pregnant and how that can affect an off-road trip out in the mountains or beach.
Is it safe to 4WD while pregnant
The internet is covered with people asking this question, can you go off-roading while pregnant and the answer might surprise you. As mentioned from the onset, there are two trains of thought here. On the one hand, you have the super cautious, no risk-takers and on the other hand, you have those that feel life shouldn’t stand still for pregnant mothers once they are out of the high-risk period.
You could present a good case for both arguments with substantial facts to back both. Many mothers feel, heck it’s only 40 weeks till full-term, I’m not going to take any risks, especially first-time mothers to be.
The alternate argument is physical exercise does the mother well. Getting out and enjoying life to the full sends positive vibes to the baby and makes the mom-to-be still feel human and normal to a degree.
If you are of the mindset to get outdoors and enjoy some light 4-wheel driving then you might want to, at least, invest in a pregnancy tummy shield. Its an award-winning seat belt for pregnant mothers. Its been crash tested for increased safety and comfort. An essential product to keep your unborn baby safe and secure while driving on or off-road.
My mother, apparently went hiking in the mountains just hours prior to me being born and the day before my firstborn son was born, I took my wife for a long walk on the beach.
Off-road driving while pregnant
But what about 4-wheel driving as an option? Long walks on the beach, yes, light exercise and yoga, absolutely. These are all low impact activities. 4-wheel driving is another ball-game altogether. And there are a few very important factors to consider such as:
- What phase of pregnancy are you in?
- How far are you going to be driving?
- For how long are you going to be driving?
- How bumpy is the road going to be?
- Will I be able to take toilet breaks when needed?
- How far will you be from civilization and medical services?
These are all important factors to take into consideration before you hop into that 4-wheel drive. Will you be prepared if the baby decides to come early? What about medical assistance? How far will you be traveling into remote areas?
Next, let’s look at the changes that will take place in the mother’s body after conception and how that can pose as a challenge when driving off-road.
What happens to the mother’s body when pregnant
So when a mother falls pregnant, there are major changes that happen inside her body. Changes to her bones, muscles, emotions, hormones and more. It’s literally a miracle that is taking place inside the mother’s body with sperm and a cell joined to form a single cell which is the beginning of an extraordinary chain of events.
The mother’s body begins to change weeks before doctors’ tests and examinations even confirm that you are pregnant. The changes the mother will experience will affect the way she feels and functions. She could experience nausea, fatigue and “morning sickness” These are all factors to consider if you are going to be driving off-road for many hours.
When you drive in certain off-road conditions there might be certain parts that include extreme inclines and declines or off-camber driving conditions. These off-road driving conditions can make even a grown man nauseous. The bumpy road conditions could initiate morning sickness. The pressure on the bladder from sitting and bumping for extended periods in the 4-wheel drive can become very uncomfortable for the mother.
Let’s next look at 4-wheel driving conditions and how it could affect the mother.
4-wheel driving and the pregnant mother
Before I wrote this article, I actually asked my wife if remembers us going 4-wheel driving while she was pregnant and she gave me a resounding, yes. I recall it was at a game reserve with gravel tracks and I was driving a Land Rover Discovery 3 with pneumatic air suspension, sort of like a magic carpet ride, so I can assure you she was fine. For the record, my kids turned out ok. 4-wheel driving with a 1-year-old and a highly pregnant mother is not going to involve any extreme off-roading, I can assure you. Even though I was more concerned for her and the baby, she reassured me they were all fine.
With that being said, there definitely are certain off-roading conditions I would strongly recommend you avoid with a pregnant mother on-board. These include but not limited to:
- Extreme rock crawling
- Long bumpy corrugated dirt roads
- Thick uneven soft sand on the beach
- Extreme uneven inclines or declines
This type of terrain is just too bumpy and the risk of injury to mother and baby is highly increased. The mother’s body undergoes many changes within the 40-week pregnancy.
These changes include the expanding uterus pressing on other organs like:
- The bladder
- Blood vessels
The pressure experienced with changes happening in her body will be exacerbated when doing rough uneven off-roading for prolonged periods. The constant shacking, knocking, bumps and uneven off-camber driving could all intensify the mother’s condition. Question is, do you really want to put yourself through this?
Back Pain and Off-road Driving
Another factor to take into consideration is the backpressure 4-wheel driving places on its passengers. I always have a stiff back after a heavy day of off-road driving. The vehicle is constantly bouncing and shaking so you don’t really have a chance to rest your back for long periods which means your lower back takes a pounding with doing heavy off-road driving. At least mine does.
Research also indicates that 50% of pregnant woman experience backaches as their bones and muscles adapt to the stresses of carrying a baby. For some mothers to be it’s simply an annoyance they are willing to put up with, but one-third of pregnant woman report that interferes significantly with their daily activities. If you are a pregnant mother and fall into the 1/3 category of severe back pain, then I would strongly suggest you avoid any 4-wheel driving until after the baby is born.
So we’ve discussed the challenges that face a pregnant mother and how her body adapts to the pregnancy by undergoing a transformation to accommodate the development and growth of the baby. We also specified when the high-risk period is (between week 3-8), where any extreme physical activity should be avoided or kept to a minimum at all costs since this is crucial for the baby’s development. The pain and discomfort a pregnant mother undergoes will definitely be intensified when she goes 4-wheel driving and this is something both she and the driver needs to take into consideration. Length of the drive, road conditions, and prolonged periods of discomfort for the pregnant mother are all factors the mother will need to endure. Ultimately, it’s the mother’s decision.