Seat belts, air bags still safe for pregnant women
Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2010 9:48 am
Each year, 32,800 pregnant women are involved in traffic accidents all across the United States.
“Due to myths regarding safety restraints and features in cars (such as seat belts and air bags), many of these women are less protected than they should be” according to Sandi Wilkinson RN BSN MS Maternity Center Nurse Manager at Volunteer Community Hospital in Martin.
One common myth is that seat belts, because of their tightness and proximity to a pregnant woman’s belly, are somehow bad for the unborn child. This is just not true, according to a report published in American Family Physician. It calls proper seat belt use “the most significant modifiable factor in decreasing maternal and fetal injury and mortality after motor vehicle crashes.”
The proper way to wear a seat belt if you are pregnant is with the shoulder belt lying across your chest (between your breasts) and away from your neck. Secure the lap belt below your belly so that it fits snugly across your hips and pelvic bone. Never put the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm.
You should, however, adjust your seat if you are pregnant. You should move the front seat back as far as possible. If you’re driving, make sure that you can still comfortably reach the pedals. Always keep at least 10 inches between the center of your chest and the steering wheel cover or dashboard. As your abdomen grows during pregnancy, adjust your seat to maintain this 10-inch minimum.
Similarly, air bags, which were admittedly once a danger to pregnant women, have been redesigned and are now safe. According to a recent study, lead researcher Melissa Schiff found that air bags that deploy during an accident do not produce more negative effects than those produced when pregnant women are involved in car accidents without the deployment of air bags.
You still need to buckle up even if your vehicle has air bags. Air bags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them. Without a seat belt, you could be thrown into a rapidly opening frontal air bag, which could injure or even kill you or your unborn baby. Also, if you’re not buckled up, you could collide with other passengers or be ejected from your vehicle. On a national level, there are roughly 6 million car accidents every year, and, as stated, roughly 33,000 of them include pregnant women. If all women simply wore their seatbelts during pregnancy, ideally with the lap belt positioned under the pregnant abdomen, approximately 200 fetal lives would be saved. This doesn’t include the prevention of an unknown number of pre-term births and placental abruptions that result in brain injury and other long-term disabilities.
No car or its passengers can ever be truly “safe” in the case of an accident, but taking safety measures like seat belts and air bags can drastically improve the chances not only for the expectant mother, but for her unborn child as well.
To learn more about seat belts, air bags, child safety seats (including where to find a free child seat inspection station near you), as well as other highway safety topics, call the DOT Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 or visit the NHTSA Web site at www.nhtsa.gov.