Pregnancy and Seatbelts

Myth: Wearing a seatbelt during pregnancy can harm my baby

Fact: 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. Even in a minor accident, where injuries are not as severe, you still have a five percent chance of losing your baby if unrestrained.

Dangers to Your Baby

A 2008 study from the University of Michigan estimates that proper seatbelt use by pregnant women would save 200 fetuses each year. Fetal death is not the only thing that can happen in a crash if the mother is unrestrained. A 2004 study in Utah examined police records, birth certificates, and certificates of death from 1992-1999 and found other complications that can occur include: abruptio placentae (premature separation of the placenta from the uterus), fetal distress, birth weight less than 5lbs. 8oz., premature birth before 37 weeks, delivery within 48 hours of crash, cesarean delivery, fetal mortality, and abnormal conditions such as seizures, birth injury, or assisted ventilation.

Dangers to You

There are medical complications that can occur to the mother as well as the baby. A study in San Diego found that 68% of women involved in a crash while not wearing a seat belt noted abdominal pain. Some mothers are also more likely to experience complications from blood clots, fractures, and internal injuries if involved in a crash while unrestrained. Researchers have also found that a mother’s uterus and bladder are not as protected by the pelvis after 12 weeks gestation and can be more easily injured by blunt trauma.

How to Wear a Seatbelt

Properly positioning the three point safety belt found in most cars is the most important way you can protect yourself and your baby.

The shoulder belt should cross over your collar bone and lay between your breasts. It should be positioned so that it does not hit your neck. The lap belt should never ever be placed on or above your belly. It should be worn snuggly under your belly and across the hips. Never put the shoulder belt behind your back or under your arm. Wearing a lap belt alone will do more harm than good. Research done by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents found that rapid deceleration in a crash caused injuries to the unborn baby when a pregnant women was only wearing a lap belt. Click here to learn more.

Air Bags

Doctors strongly recommend leaving airbags turned on, whether riding as a passenger or the driver. Airbags are meant to work with seat belts in protecting both mother and child.

Seat Positions

If you continue to drive your car during your pregnancy, remember that as your body is changing you need to reset your seat to keep your belly a safe distance from the steering wheel, approximately 10 inches. Make sure that after you reset your seat you can still comfortably reach the accelerator, brake, and clutch. When you change your seat, you also need to remember to change the mirrors. If you are not driving, it is safest to sit in the back seat of the vehicle, provided the seat has a lap and shoulder seat belt.


Is it safe to use a seatbelt during pregnancy? (babycenter)

Seat Belt Use During Pregnancy (AAFP)

Seat Belt Recommendations During Pregnancy (NHTSA)