Almost all learner drivers will go through some pretty stressful moments during their lessons—especially as the often anxiety-inducing practical test approaches. Those who are learning to drive while pregnant, however, have a tougher time of it than many. Deciding to learn to drive while pregnant requires serious consideration, and an understanding of the pros, cons, rules and risks.
In this guide, we’ll discuss whether it’s safe to drive while pregnant, as well the DVSA’s advice regarding pregnant learners taking the driving test. We’ll also provide tips on how to stay safe and comfortable throughout the learning process, and guidance to help you decide whether or not to take your test. Find out everything below!
Is it safe to drive while pregnant?
It’s easy to see why some pregnant women decide to learn to drive. Not only will it help you get around easily during your pregnancy, but it also makes life with a newborn that little bit easier. And besides—when will you find the time to learn when you become a new mum?!
Despite this, however, learning to drive while pregnant comes with more than its fair share of drawbacks. For starters, pregnancy is already a taxing experience—adding the stress of learning to drive makes matters even more complicated. Then, there’s the time pressure: can you get passed before your due date?
The most important issue for pregnant learners, though, is safety. After all, getting behind the wheel at any time comes with its share of risks—and these become even more salient when you’re expecting.
The good news here is that, fortunately, ADIs are more than familiar with the tribulations learner drivers go through on the road—their feet are always ready to brake and take control of any situation. In this vein, a learner is safe in the hands of their instructor—pregnant learners included!
In general, therefore, it is safe to drive for the majority of your pregnancy. However, there are plenty of factors you need to consider when deciding on whether to continue on with learning to drive or not.
As you progress through your driving lessons, it’s of the utmost importance that you listen to the advice of your doctor regarding your health. While most will tell you that you’re fine to drive, rare circumstances that can affect your health or safety may arise at any point. Each pregnancy is different, so you need to make sure you’re taking all the necessary precautions.
Stage of pregnancy & symptoms
Driving while pregnant can be incredibly frustrating and uncomfortable for reasons such as fluctuating hormones and immense physical changes. These can worsen depending on how far along in your pregnancy you are. For the most part, though, you should be able to get through your first and second trimester without much of a hitch. In other words, it will be uncomfortable, but most women should be able to manage.
Of course, there’s a nice abundance of symptoms that most pregnant women have to experience, including (but not limited to):
– Morning sickness
– General nausea
Any of these issues can hit you at any moment, which makes learning to drive a particularly challenging process. Nausea, for example, can make it difficult to settle in an enclosed space. Additionally, swelling around the ankles can make it impossible to drive for long periods of time. You’ll also have to compensate for your growing bump by moving the steering wheel and constantly readjusting your seating arrangements.
This isn’t to say that driving is impossible when you’re pregnant. There are plenty of ways to alleviate your symptoms and make it easier on yourself when driving. Many pregnant women swear by peppermint tea, for example, to ease nausea and morning sickness (though you’ll have to account for additional toilet breaks!). If it helps, you can ask your instructor to crack open a window for fresh air or make stops for frequent breaks.
All pregnancies are different, but if you’re finding it hard to concentrate or move past these symptoms, it might be better to save learning to drive until after you’ve given birth.
Your instructor’s advice
It’s not just your doctor’s opinion and own personal experience that you should take into account when learning to drive while pregnant: you should also bear in mind your instructor’s opinion. After all, depending on your level of experience, you could be spending up to 50 hours in a car with your instructor. During this time, they’ll get to know you and your driving style. They’ll be able to safely assess whether you’re capable of completing your lessons and taking your test safely. If, for example, they think you’re a danger to yourself and others, then they’ll just tell you to delay your test.
When should I stop driving?
There are various factors to consider when deciding when is the best time to stop learning to drive while pregnant. Some women stop not long after finding out the good news. Others have continued on and taken their test well into their third trimester. For the most part, pregnant learners tend to put their driving on hold when they hit 30 weeks (just before the third trimester).
With that in mind, if you’re looking to get passed, you should get a test booked in before your third trimester. By doing so, you’re more likely to have enough time to finish your lessons. Of course, if there’s simply not enough time to get your test sorted before then, you’ll have to consider doing it after labour. If you’ve completed half of your lessons only to find you don’t have enough time to pass your test, it will have to wait.
Ultimately, it’s completely down to you and whether you feel comfortable driving. The further along you get with your pregnancy, the more uncomfortable you might feel whilst driving. You’ll become more fatigued and, as your baby bump grows, it might become more of a struggle to get behind the wheel. Remember: if you don’t feel ready, you can always push your test date back.
Can I take the driving test?
So, you’ve got enough time—hypothetically—to complete your lessons and take your driving test before you’re too far along. You might have even booked your driving test well in advance. But what exactly are the rules in regards to taking the practical while pregnant? Let’s consult the experts…
What does the DVSA say?
The DVSA states that you can take a driving test at any stage of your pregnancy—putting the decision entirely in the hands of the candidate.
“You can take a driving test at any stage of your pregnancy. However, you must be able and willing to do an emergency stop”.
And therein lies the catch. All learners taking their driving test have a 1 in 3 chance of being asked to perform an emergency stop—and it’s no different for pregnant learners. The examiner has no control over which candidates are chosen to perform an emergency stop. If you fail to conduct the emergency stop, then you will fail your test.
Additionally, there’s a lot expected of driving test candidates. The driving test is designed to put you through your paces and truly test whether you’re safe and confident enough to be on the roads unsupervised. This can be even more challenging when you’re pregnant. Observations during manoeuvres, for example, can be difficult. During your test, you’ll be asked to demonstrate one of these manoeuvres:
– Bay parking
In order to safely and correctly perform these manoeuvres, you’ll have to carry out all-round observations. If you’re far along in your pregnancy, this can be uncomfortable and difficult to do.
Not sure you’d be up to the task? Ask your instructor to give you a mock test, if it is safe to do so. This will give them the chance to determine if you’re test-ready or not. It also makes for good practice—putting you at ease for when you finally take your test.
Tips for pregnant learners
Safety and comfort
Considering that the average beginner driver needs between 40 to 50 hours of driving experience to pass their test, it’s safe to say that you’ll be spending a lot of time in your instructor’s car. With that in mind, you need to take necessary precautions and actions to ensure you’re both safe and comfortable throughout your learning experience.
If at any point during a lesson you feel too fatigued or nauseous to continue on, let your instructor know. They’ll get you to pull over safely and drive you back home.
For both safety and comfort purposes, you should take care to adjust your driving position as your pregnancy progresses. Sit further back from the steering wheel—making sure you can still reach the pedals comfortably. The seat should also be adjusted so that there’s a gap between your bump and the steering wheel. The lap belt should be low and resting on your thighs whilst the diagonal belt should rest between your breasts.
Though it seems obvious, you should also take care to wear comfortable clothes while driving. Stick to light tops—to keep you cool—and elasticated waistbands.
As overused as the saying is, throughout pregnancy, you’re eating for two. It’s not just the car that needs fuel!
As such, you should eat before you leave the house. You might consider taking a snack along with you if you’re on a longer lesson. If you think this might be an issue, talk it over with your instructor—they should be understanding of your situation. Additionally, make sure you drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. It will help you stay alert and stave off fatigue. You will, however, need to account for toilet breaks.
Don’t push yourself
While it’s tempting to go for longer intensive lessons and get passed as soon as possible, it could result in you worsening any one of your discomforting symptoms. For the most part, shorter lessons would be best—or long ones with frequent breaks so that you can monitor your circulation and move about a bit.
It’s important that you don’t push yourself too far. Many pregnant learners try to rush their lessons and get their test out of the way as quickly as possible. That being said, your safety is a priority. If your instructor doesn’t feel like you’re ready—or they feel it’s unsafe—they will suggest postponing the test.
Should I keep learning?
Still not sure whether you should keep learning? Weigh up the key pros and cons before you make a decision—we’ve got a handy list below.
– Get it out of the way. If you wait until after you’ve given birth, you’ll only come up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t do it. Waiting too long might mean you have to fork out for additional lessons afterwards to get back up to speed.
– It’s great for small talk. A nervous driver? Struggle with making conversation? Pregnancy is a great subject matter to chat about with the examiner—it can help you distract yourself from the anxiety of taking your driving test.
– What a motivator! If you’re pregnant and learning to drive, you have a reason to carry on through your lessons and get passed. It’s your own personal deadline and motivator rolled into one—pushing you to get passed before you give birth.
– The emergency stop. 1 in 3 drivers are asked to perform an emergency stop during their driving test, and pregnant learners aren’t given an exemption. If you’re asked to do so and you’re not able to, you’ll fail your test.
– Pregnancy symptoms. From morning sickness to fatigue to navigating around your growing baby bump, there’s more than enough to make your journey towards passing your driving test difficult.
– Rush and you’ll regret it. If you get too preoccupied with passing—squeezing in too many lessons and picking a test date that’s too soon—you might end up failing and being unable to rebook for another until well after you give birth anyway.
It’s all ultimately in your hands. If you’ve looked at the information we’ve given you and decided that you still want to go ahead, then why not try it? In the worst case scenario, you could just delay taking your test until after you’ve given birth.