Up until now, you’ve survived rain, snow, and rugged terrain while off-roading. But, now you have a brand new challenge ahead of you: You’re pregnant! And while you don’t want to give up off-roading for nine months, you also don’t want to put your unborn child at risk.
You shouldn’t go off-roading while pregnant. There’s always a risk of roll-overs, accidents, and bumpy terrain, which can harm both you and your baby. If you’re planning on off-roading through your pregnancy, talk to your doctor first. Avoid rough terrain, drive slower, and wear your seatbelt.
Off-roading and pregnancy are two things that don’t mesh well together. Keep reading to learn about why off-roading can be extremely dangerous for pregnant women. Then, we’ll go over a few tips on how to off-road safely while pregnant if you can’t fathom staying off the trails.
The Possible Dangers of Off-Roading While Pregnant
The moment you saw that positive pregnancy test, everything changed. Your baby’s safety is now your number one priority, and you have quite a few limitations when it comes to what you can and can’t do.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it’s best to avoid activities that put you at risk for falling or experiencing an impact on your abdominal area. Unfortunately, off-roading can be lumped into these pregnancy safety guidelines.
So, let’s talk about the potential risks that come along with off-roading during pregnancy.
The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine states that about 5,000 unborn babies die annually due to complications from automobile accidents. That includes side impacts, fender-benders, and the most severe of all: Roll-over crashes.
But that data only represents accidents that occur on the road.
Roll-over crashes in off-roading are all-too-common. These occur when your Jeep or 4×4 tips over and continues flipping over on itself until it comes to a complete stop. In off-roading, roll-over crashes can result after attempting something as simple as a steep hill descent or side slopes.
In normal roll-over crashes, you call a tow truck down to the trail and hop back in for the drive home. You might wake up in the morning with some bumps and bruises, and your truck will probably need to pay a visit to the shop.
As expected, the risk of becoming seriously injured from a roll-over crash while pregnant is even more significant. Instances of pregnant women being involved in roll-over crashes have led to the following:
- Traumatic brain injuries and spinal fractures in the mother
- Rib fractures
- Liver ruptures
- Placental abruption
- Skull fractures
The most important thing to remember is that, even though you’re wearing a seatbelt, your unborn baby isn’t. So as your truck is tumbling down the hill, your baby is feeling every bump freely and full-force.
Severe injury while in the womb will require an immediate visit to the emergency room and might call for an emergency C-section. This can be extremely dangerous if you’re not full-term and giving birth to a premature baby.
Being Off the Grid
Another thing you need to think about when you’re pregnant is how far you are from the closest hospital. Pregnancy is full of unexpected events, and sometimes you need to get to the hospital quickly for an evaluation.
By now, you know that the best off-roading trails are well beyond the beaten path. Some trails take hours to get to, bring you deep into the forest away from civilization, and force you to climb steep slopes and mountains to get to the trailhead.
But what happens if you get into an accident or if you go into labor suddenly while off-roading?
According to a study published in BJOG, there’s a possible link between your distance to the hospital and the health and safety of your pregnancy. The study found that even living 20+ minutes from the closest hospital can prove fatal when there’s an emergency.
You’re taking a huge risk for your baby’s health by off-roading far away from the hospital. In situations where you go into preterm labor, experience severe bleeding, or feel severe abdominal pain, time is essential.
Now you have to race across rough terrain to get back onto the roads and get to the hospital.
Crossing Deep Water
An off-roading adventure wouldn’t be complete without a little water action. There’s nothing like flooring it through a stream or a giant puddle and watching the water go airborne. But sometimes, it’s hard to gauge how much water is actually in that creek.
After periods of heavy rain, flooding, or even melted snow, the stream that was once 6” deep might now be a few feet deep. Even Jeeps lifted several feet off the ground may be unable to clear deep water without posing a safety hazard for occupants.
Unfortunately, your truck will only float for about a minute or two before your 4×4 begins sinking rapidly into the water below. You’ll have only about one or two minutes to escape your sinking Jeep until it’s fully submerged.
If you don’t get out quickly, you’ll drown. But you have to keep in mind that even a near-drowning means your body is being deprived of oxygen for some time. For every second you go without air, oxygen to the fetus is also limited, which can cause:
- Cerebral palsy
- Permanent brain damage
- Low birth weight
The risk of drowning or near-drowning is just too great when off-roading. Even a few minutes without oxygen can lead to severe birth defects in your unborn baby.
Sudden Impacts or Crashes
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 7% of pregnancies will involve some sort of physical trauma to the fetus. Yet, this is probably the greatest concern when it comes to off-roading while pregnant.
Both you and your unborn baby will feel every bump, bounce, and shake while on the trail. That’s especially the case if you’re off-roading in an area known for hills, bumps, potholes, and sharp turns. And you just can’t avoid them all, so you’ll feel some more than others.
The risk of injury is greatly increased with rougher terrain.
The smaller bumps and holes in the off-roading track aren’t as big of a concern as the sudden impacts that you might face. The last thing you want to do is hit a massive bump and go head-first into the dashboard or the steering wheel.
This is extremely dangerous, even if you’re wearing a seatbelt.
This biggest concern would be placental abruption. This occurs when the placenta becomes detached from the uterus. In the process, your baby’s supply of oxygen and nutrients is immediately limited or cut off entirely. You might also experience extreme bleeding.
If the accident or trauma is severe enough, you might have to give birth immediately to prevent continued blood loss and extended oxygen deprivation to your unborn child. That’s especially concerning if you’re not even in your third trimester.
If You’re Going to Off-Road While Pregnant…
Off-roading might be your escape and the only thing that you look forward to at the end of a long workweek. Staying away from the trails for the next nine months might not be something you’re looking forward to doing.
If you’re dead-set on off-roading through your pregnancy, you want to make sure that you’re doing it carefully. So, here are some things you’ll want to do to stay safe while on the trails.
Talk to Your Doctor First
When you walk into the exam room for your doctor’s appointment, don’t be surprised if your doctor immediately shuts down the idea of off-roading while pregnant.
Off-roading is typically safe on mild terrain, but the small chance that something goes wrong is of great concern to most medical professionals.
Be sure to explain exactly what off-roading is.
If you live in the suburbs or the city, most people would assume that off-roading means simply driving a car on any surface that’s not asphalt. Specify that off-roading means bumps, hills, potholes, stream crossings, side slopes, and everything of the sort.
It might even help to show your doctor a video of what off-roading looks like.
Remember, this appointment isn’t meant to convince your doctor that you should be allowed to off-road while pregnant. You’re looking for genuine medical advice that can keep both you and your unborn baby healthy!
Avoid Rougher Terrain
The danger that comes with off-roading is the terrain. That’s because you can’t always anticipate how your Jeep will respond to a hill or a steep drop.
It’s time to take it easy on the trails and enjoy the ride.
If you’re convinced that it’s safe to off-road while pregnant, you need to choose trails and areas that are relatively mild in terms of terrain. That means very few bumps, even ground, and no steep hills whatsoever.
Your goal is to minimize the risk of roll-overs, accidents, or trauma to your abdomen.
Off-Road in Nice Weather
It’s a ton of fun to face the elements while on the trail. There’s nothing like getting your Jeep covered in mud and slipping and sliding on patches of ice. The problem is that bad weather can also be extremely dangerous while off-roading.
It’s important that you only off-road when it’s sunny and dry.
The first concern of off-roading in inclement weather would have to be visibility. On a sunny day, you might be able to see miles into the distance. When driving in severe rain or snow, you may only be able to see a few feet in front of you and be unable to predict the trail ahead.
Then, there’s the obvious risk of an accident. Both snow and rain can force your 4×4 to lose traction and slide off of the trail. This could send your vehicle into a tree or on its side.
Check the forecast before heading out to the trail.
Stay in an Area You Know
There’s just something about trying out new trails that makes a normal off-roading adventure even more exciting. The problem is that the unexpected can be your worst nightmare if you’re off-roading while you’re pregnant.
You need to know the trails you’re driving on.
The last thing you want is to end up in a situation where you’re stuck in the woods or on a mountain. You might end up descending a hill without much issue. But on your way back up, you realize that the hill might be a little too steep and potentially dangerous.
Make sure that you’re off-roading on trails that you know like the back of your hand. You should know where all water features, bumps, turns, and hills are before you even get to the trail.
During your pregnancy is not the time to experiment with new areas.
Wear Your Seatbelt Properly
There’s no question that you should be wearing a seatbelt every time that you go off-roading.
Yet, this safety feature is even more important when you’re off-roading during a pregnancy. Hitting a bump at the wrong angle or rolling your Jeep might send you airborne inside your cabin without being properly secured.
If you’ve been pregnant before, then you know there’s a unique way to wear your seatbelt.
You should be tucking the lap belt underneath your abdomen (not across it), and your shoulder belt should be in front of your body (not tucked behind it). Wearing your seatbelt improperly while pregnant puts you at greater risk for abdominal trauma during an accident.
You also need to adjust your driver seat to give your abdominal area a little extra room. You should be sitting upright with as much room between you and the steering wheel as possible.
Want a little more information? Check out this video that explains in-depth how you should wear your seatbelt when you’re pregnant.
Drive Slowly & Carefully
The terrain and the bumps are what make off-roading so exhilarating. Now, you can’t avoid every single bump while off-roading. But you can do what it takes to minimize your body’s reaction to the big ones.
The most important thing that you can do is to drive slowly.
In all honesty, every single mile per hour counts when you’re hitting bumps on the trail. You know there’s a huge difference between hitting a hole at 10 miles per hour compared to 20 miles per hour.
So, stick to a few miles per hour and take the trail carefully.
It might not be as big of a rush as it once was, but at least you’ll stay safe during your ride. You can get back to your normal speed after delivery!
Stay Off the Quads & Dirt Bikes
Off-roading can take several forms and, sometimes, you like to hit the trails on your favorite two or four-wheel vehicles. Unfortunately, those aren’t even in the cards while you’re pregnant.
Driving in a truck is your safest option.
That all comes down to the potential for being thrown off of an ATV or a dirt bike. All it takes is taking one bump too hard or from the wrong angle, and you’ll be sent airborne. This greatly increases your risk of abdominal trauma.
You’re going to have to wait until you’ve recovered from delivery before you get back on the dirt bike and hit the trails.
Off-Roading Post-Pregnancy Tips
Fortunately, you can return to off-roading after giving birth to your baby. But just how long it takes you to get back to the trail will depend on a few factors.
Here are the general guidelines regarding driving post-pregnancy:
- Wait at least a week to drive after giving birth.
- Wait for an additional two to three weeks if you’ve given birth via C-section.
Now, those suggestions are relatively vague and don’t really consider off-roading. In most cases, you should be able to return to off-roading within a few weeks of giving birth. Just be aware that it might be a little uncomfortable as you recover from childbirth.
When you finally get back onto the trail, here’s what you’ll want to do.
Take It Easy
You haven’t maneuvered these trails in up to 9 months. Get accustomed to traversing the terrain slowly and start off with some of the easier trails first. When you feel comfortable behind the wheel again, head toward the rougher terrain.
Take Your Time
You want to get back to the trail now, but your body might not be ready for that just yet. Be sure to pay attention to the signs your body is giving you and avoid off-roading if you’re still achy or not feeling 100%. Visit your doctor if these symptoms last longer than 6 to 8 weeks.
It’s a bummer that you’ll be off the trails for the rest of your pregnancy, but it’s the price you have to pay to guarantee a healthy newborn. The last thing you want to do is induce early labor or cause physical damage to the placenta. So, stick to the roads for now and head back down to the trails after you’ve recovered from giving birth.