Is It Safe to Wear a Seat Belt While Pregnant?

The following is a sponsored post from Safe Ride 4 Kids.

 

It’s a question many ask themselves as they buckle the seat belt over their growing baby bump.

Ultimately, it is much safer to wear the seat belt than not to wear it. A seat belt is your first line of defense during a crash.

A seat belt’s purpose is to help you remain in the seat during a crash. It is much more dangerous for anyone (include the other occupants) to be unrestrained. During a crash, a person not wearing a seat belt can become a large projectile within the car — hard to imagine, I know, but there is an incredible amount of energy in a crash — or get thrown out of the car. The potential for life-threatening injuries goes up by 5-25 times when thrown outside the car.

The seat belt functions by cinching down on the pelvic bones and shoulder. That piece of webbing is small but very strong and does its job well. When a car comes to a sudden halt in a crash, the body still wants to move at the speed the car was moving. The seat belt helps prevent that from happening. So yes, it is critical to wear a seat belt in pregnancy.

Nothing Is 100% Safe, Including the Seat Belt

Despite being a life-saving device, a seatbelt can cause injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cautions, that a baby in utero can be injured “from crash forces concentrated in the area where the seat belt crosses the mother’s abdomen.”

During the first trimester, the uterus remains low in the abdomen and is enclosed in the pelvis. During the second and third trimesters, the uterus grows upward and outward, losing the protection of the pelvic ring and displacing other abdominal organs. (Friese; Wojciehoski, 2005)

This doesn’t mean that any car crash will cause injuries to a baby as several other factors play into the potential for injury, including how far along you are in pregnancy, how/where the baby is being carried in the body during pregnancy, and how fast the car is moving. Injuries can occur in low-speed crashes, but the risk of injury increases significantly as speed increases.

Fetal acceleration in a car crash is three times that of the mother, which is why injuries to baby in a car crash may more severe than the pregnant person. (Thackeray, 2002)Placenta abruption is the most common and most life-threatening injury caused to pregnant women during a car crash. Placenta abruption occurs with 30%–50% of major trauma injuries. The rate of maternal death is low, but the rate of fetal death from placental abruption is high. Head trauma is the most common direct fetal injury and is said to occur in less than 10% of crashes with pregnant occupants. (Friese, Wojciehoski; 2005)

Best Protection Currently Available in the Car

Despite the potential for injury, wearing a seat belt while pregnant is safest. “Research shows that unbelted pregnant women are more than three times likely to lose their baby in a crash, and two times as likely to have excessive maternal bleeding,” says a 2014 Yasa International article.

Steve Rouhana, Ford’s senior technical leader for safety in the passive safety research and advanced engineering department in 2009, told USA Today, “The seatbelt is the best safety device in the vehicle today, but it doesn’t mean we can’t make it better.”

There are other things you can do to increase your safety in cars while pregnant. Making different choices can be inconvenient, but it helps to know these safe choices are available to you when possible.

3 Things to do to Increase Your Seat Belt Safety While Pregnant

1.     Be a passenger. You still need to wear a seat belt, but riding as a passenger removes the steering wheel as a point of contact, as well as reduces contact with the driver airbags.TYou can push the seat back farther to reduce airbag contact.

2.     Wear your seat belt with a crash-tested pregnancy seat belt adjuster made of crash-quality materials. Make sure the one you choose is high quality and crash tested as there are some that could make the situation worse.

3.     Do you have to be the driver? A 2014 study showed that pregnant people are more likely to be in a crash. Researchers believe this is because of fatigue or feeling nauseated while driving. (Redelmeier; Thiruchelvam, 2014) So before you drive, gauge how you feel. If you are tired, postpone driving or ask someone else to drive, if possible. This is a perfect time for using a ride share app!

 

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Amie Durocher has been a certified CPS Technician since 2004. She is the Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids, a company that offers up-to-date car safety information and innovative products, like the Tummy Shield, to help parents keep their precious little ones safe.

 

1.    Friese, Greg; Wojciehoski, Randal F.; “Fetal Trauma from Motor Vehicle Collisions .” EMS World. (July 1, 2005)

2.    Thackray, L.; Blackketter, D.; “Three-point seat belt maternal comfort and fetal safety. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.” Journal of Automobile Engineering, v216, (2002): p173-180.

3.    Redelmeier DA, May SC, Thiruchelvam D, Barrett JF. “Pregnancy and the risk of a traffic crash.” Canadian Medical Association Journal volume 186 (10), (May 2014): p742–50.

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