Carrying While Carrying
From U.S. Concealed Carry.com, Written by Janine Wonnacott- If you’ve made the decision to carry a gun to protect yourself, you don’t have to stop during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a vulnerable time, and self-defense is just as important during this time. In fact, carrying a tool for self-defense may be more important during pregnancy than before. Pregnancy will limit your mobility. Your center of balance shifts forward as your belly expands. Doctors advise women to focus on gaining 20 to 30 pounds during the nine months of pregnancy, but some women (like me) gain upwards of 60 pounds. Toward the ninth month, running is difficult, and even walking can turn to waddling. Too much exertion or physical trauma can injure the baby. Because of your decreased range of motion, some criminals target pregnant women. Just as you can help your baby grow through proper nutrition and exercise, you can help keep your baby safe from physical harm if you are prepared to defend yourself while in your new, temporary, vulnerable condition.
Different methods of carry create different advantages and disadvantages.
Your regular carry method matches your current body type and may not work for your new and evolving shape. Comfort or concealability will be new challenges, and there will be a limited amount of time to discover, test, become comfortable with, and then implement a new carry method.
Risks of Carrying a Firearm
Carrying a gun during pregnancy may create a bit of risk to you and your baby.
The two big concerns to address about carrying are first, exposure to lead and toxins; and second, pressure from the holster.
Lead and other heavy metals common in ammunition can damage a developing baby, but it is easy to minimize exposure and thus risk. These heavy metals are not radioactive; you need to somehow consume them in order for them to affect the fetus. Physical proximity to lead is not harmful. Safe exposure to lead has not been established, but since the toxic effect of exposure is cumulative, the less contact the better. To reduce lead exposure, minimize contact with ammunition whenever possible. Make sure your carry weapon stays clean.
Rarely (if ever) discharge the weapon during pregnancy and touch it as little as possible (keep it in a holster and touch the holster). Ask a friend or significant other to load or clean it. When you do handle a gun or ammunition, wash your hands, arms, and face thoroughly. Actually shooting and training with a firearm is a more complicated issue that this article doesn’t address, but simply carrying a well-cleaned firearm is not very risky.
Pregnancy brings about risk of blood clots and damage to ligaments and tendons that can increase the hazards of holsters that restrict circulation or apply pressure to certain joints. Constant pressure from a holster, in the same spot for hours at a time, day after day, can cause joint and nerve damage in anyone. Pregnant women face greater vulnerability from a constricting holster due to changes in their body structure.
You may need to find different solutions for each trimester.
Different methods of carry create different advantages and disadvantages. Given the way your body will change, you may need to find different solutions for each trimester. When you learn you are pregnant, continue to carry in the manner you are comfortable with as you explore your options for the next several months.
Small and compact, the Kel-Tec P3AT can be concealed well in a Sideguard pocket holster.
As long as you can fit into regular pants, you can keep using a waistband holster. After you start to show, forget it. Maternity pants don’t have belt loops—they are elastic in the waist. If these pants did have belt loops, any weight on a belt at waist or hip level would make your pants sag dramatically, if not just fall off. Many maternity pants stretch up and over the belly, rather than ending at the hips or waist, so there is no place to tuck a holster. I found waist band carry impossible as the months progressed. I tried a belly band over the pants, and that worked for a week or two, but after that I couldn’t get the elastic to touch, let alone secure.
When you can still fit into regular jeans, you can still use a waistband holster, such as this Sideguard IWB holster designed to carry an S&W Model 638.
Even if you are physically able to wear a waistband holster, some studies have found that pressure on the belly and the lower back, sometimes a source of muscle strain and nerve damage in non-pregnant adults, might put stress on the fetus as well. Pregnancy softens the joints and ligaments throughout the body to prepare for birth. Undue pressure on these joints may be harmful, and will certainly be uncomfortable.
A more pragmatic concern is concealment. Maternity shirts tend to be made of very thin material that reveals the dimple of your belly button. Such shirts probably won’t conceal the outline of a firearm and holster.
An ankle holster, worn “incorrectly” on the outside dominant ankle, can be easily accessed while seated. Mom-to-be has a Kel-Tec P32 in a Galco Ankle Lite.
Ankle holsters avoid the concealment problems of waistband holsters and thin maternity clothing. Access is an issue, however. A late-term pregnant woman might be able to get down to the holster but unable to stand back up. Tight elastic around one ankle might be uncomfortable, and there is a risk of restricting circulation, which is particularly dangerous for pregnant women. If you aren’t used to an ankle holster, the new weight might put you further off balance, especially as you try to adapt to the weight gain of pregnancy.
It’s much harder to crouch down with a big belly, but it can be doable if no other options work.
To make ankle carry easier, carry a lighter weight gun than you usually would. More importantly, though, stay aware of how tight the holster is. Blood clots are a potentially serious risk, and pregnancy can make your ankles swell. Don’t be afraid to buy a new or larger holster so you can be comfortable.
This Galco Del handbag allows the expectant mother the comfort of carrying off-body with a carry system designed to protect the firearm while allowing quick access.
Between the off-body carry options of purse, backpack, and fanny pack, a backpack with a pocket devoted to a firearm was the best of all possible options for me. A backpack was comfortable, easy to carry, and discreet. It was consistent, could be worn with any outfit, and didn’t need to be adapted to my new maternity clothing and my new body. There was no learning curve to learn to keep the pistol concealed.
I chose a backpack because a fanny pack wouldn’t stay on under my belly. I never carry a purse, and I didn’t want to try to get used to a weight over only one shoulder, even if a purse would have allowed easy access to the gun. The backpack offered greater comfort, but the trade-off was accessibility.
Once I got used to carrying off-body, it didn’t matter how my body continued to change shape. My carry method could stay the same.
Of course, there’s always the concern with off-body carry of losing physical control of the pistol. Carrying an extra pound of metal while carrying a child may make putting down your purse or backpack tempting. Well-intending friends may offer to carry bags for you. And if you have other children, particularly curious toddlers, they may like to root around in mommy’s purse. Only you will know if you can keep control over an off-body pistol.
Once I figured out how to carry despite being pregnant, I felt confident again that I was in control of my physical defense. I was worried about being responsible for the safety and development of a new life. I had a duty to provide this child with a healthy space to grow and protection from physical harm. A stressed out mother is no help to a growing baby. Figuring out how to carry a firearm, even knowing that during those few months I was probably never going to need it, gave me great peace of mind.
The most important thing is comfort: physical comfort and comfort in the knowledge that you are doing everything you can to protect yourself and your baby. Find out what makes you feel the most secure and know that you are doing right by yourself and your baby.
[ Janine Wonnacott lives in Virginia with her husband and baby. She carries a Glock 19. ]