Buckle up! Seat Belt Safety Tips for Pregnant Women
Is it safe for pregnant women to use seat belts? Yes. Buckling up the seat belt protects both mom and her unborn baby.
Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death for pregnant women. Motor vehicle crashes are also the leading cause of traumatic fetal death. Seat belt use reduces the risk substantially, so buckling up is the best way for women to reduce their chances of injury and death from a motor vehicle accident.
Is buckling up safe for the unborn baby?
Research shows that unborn babies have the best chance of surviving car accidents when the mother uses her seat belt properly. Of unborn babies who have died due to motor vehicle accidents, it is estimated that four out of five would have survived if the mother had worn her seat belt. There is no evidence that suggests seat belts can harm unborn babies.
Seat belts can greatly reduce a pregnant woman’s risk of injury in a car accident. If the woman is unharmed, there is a good chance her unborn baby will be unharmed, too. But if a pregnant woman is hurt in a motor vehicle accident, her unborn baby could also be injured. Studies show that seat belt use may reduce the risk of injuries and poor outcomes for mother and baby.
Pregnant? Here’s how to wear your seat belt.
Proper buckling is the key to keeping you and your unborn baby safe. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends buckling up using the three-point restraint system. This gives the maximum protection to both you and your unborn baby. To buckle up using the three-point restraint system:
- Place the lap portion of the seat belt under your belly and across your upper thighs.
- Place the shoulder portion of the seat belt between your breasts and off to the side of the belly.
- Always wear the lap and shoulder portion of the seat belt.
- Never take the shoulder part of the seat belt off and place it behind you.
- Never place the shoulder belt under your arm.
- Do not place the lap portion of the seat belt across your abdomen.
- Make sure the seat belt fits snuggly.
- Check your seat belt to make sure it's not too loose or too high.
Here are more car safety tips for pregnant women.
These tips will help pregnant women stay safe and comfortable while traveling by car.
- Keep the airbags turned on at all times. The benefits of air bags far outweigh any risks to a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.
Adjust your seat. Keep your steering wheel at least 10 inches from your breastbone.
- Longer car trips are best planned between weeks 14 and 28. Most pregnancy emergencies happen in the first and third trimesters. After 28 weeks, it may be harder to move around comfortably.
- Keep car trips brief. Limit time spent in the car to five to six hours at most each day. Stop and walk around at least every two hours. Stretch your legs and wiggle your toes often. This helps lower the risk for blood clots and eases swelling in your ankles and feet.
- Call your doctor right away if you are involved in a car accident, even if it’s minor. Your doctor may want to examine and/or monitor you and your unborn baby depending on your stage of pregnancy.
By Mary Small, Contributing Writer
For more information, please visit Optum's Health Library
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Frequently asked questions. Car safety for you and your baby. Accessed: June 28, 2016.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Frequently asked questions. Travel during pregnancy. Accessed: June 28, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prenatal counseling about seat belt use during pregnancy and injuries from car crashes during pregnancy. Accessed: June 28, 2016.
Last Updated: June 29, 2016
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