One concern of women after a cesarean delivery (CD) is the timing to resume driving. They often receive conflicting advice, little of which is based on research. This survey study was designed to assess the information women received about driving after a CD and their experiences related to driving postpartum. Information provided by health care professionals and from insurance companies was also assessed.
A convenience sample of 101 women who had a CD and who planned to drive postpartum was obtained. Just before women left the hospital, they completed the initial survey of 5 questions asking about what information on driving after a CD was provided and by whom. A second survey was administered by telephone 6 to 9 weeks postpartum and included 7 questions about the time women began driving, distances traveled, physical problems experienced, and whether problems were severe enough to stop driving. Health professionals completed a survey on what information they provided to women about driving after a CD and the sources of this information. Major insurance companies were asked to clarify information provided to women. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and calculating frequency distributions. Open-ended questions identified common issues, including abdominal discomfort, wound pain, difficulty entering and exiting vehicles, rotating the body, anxiety, and fatigue.
Of the 101 women initially surveyed, the time advised to abstain from driving ranged from 2 to 8 weeks. Women were told to use their own judgment about when they would be physically able to drive (10%) and to consult external sources (25%) or their general practitioners (1%); the rest were advised to abstain from driving for a defined length of time, usually 6 weeks. Of the 100 women who completed the second survey, 35% reported driving by 3 weeks and 72% by 6 weeks postpartum. Although 64% of women were advised to wait 6 weeks before starting to drive, only 28% followed that advice. By 6 weeks, 56% of nulliparous women and 78% of multiparous women had started to drive. The 18% of women in the first survey given no advice about driving actually started driving between 3 days and 7 weeks postpartum. Of the 86% women who began driving earlier than recommended, none reported physical problems related to driving. Advice included contacting insurance companies (34%), listening to her own body (17%), waiting until able to perform an emergency stop (10%), and waiting for a medical review (14%). Clinicians referred to colleagues as the most common source of information (51%); 16% reported using traditional professional education as an information source. Product disclosure statements from the major insurance agencies did not specify a period of driving abstinence after a CD; all stated that women could drive when given medical clearance.
Advice women receive about driving after a CD is inconsistent with no scientific evidence to support current recommendations. The most common recommendation of 6 weeks of abstinence remains unchanged despite advances in surgical techniques and car design. Information should be based on women’s physical abilities to perform the tasks required to drive.