When you’re pregnant, you should wear your seat belt over your hips but under your belly, and you should keep as much space as possible between yourself and the steering wheel.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows pregnant drivers who are in one or more car accidents have a higher rate of negative pregnancy outcomes.

According to the study, blunt abdominal trauma is the leading cause of maternal and fetal death and injury, especially injury to fetal organs that are still maturing

If you’ve followed this blog, you probably already know that auto accidents are the leading cause of death among those aged 1-54. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control noted that of the 21,022 vehicle occupants killed in crashes, more than half were not wearing seat belts. Just think about that for a moment. Wearing a seat belt could have saved more than 10,000 lives.

Even though we know that using seat belts generally is safer for both drivers and passengers, there are still those who question whether it’s safe for a pregnant woman to wear a seat belt when in a vehicle.

Keeping Yourself and Your Baby Safe

When worn correctly, wearing a seat belt should not cause any harm to you or your baby. The March of Dimes is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. It has these tips for how to correctly wear a seat belt:

  • It’s important to wear your lap belt and shoulder strap. Make sure they both fit you snugly.
  • The lap belt should be over your hips and under your belly. Never place the lap belt across your belly.
  • Place the shoulder strap between your breasts and beside your belly. Never place the shoulder strap under your arm.
  • If it’s possible, adjust the length of the shoulder strap to fit you correctly.

What About Airbags and Pregnancy?

According to the automotive research organization Edmunds, the leading cause of fetal death is trauma due to the mother being in a car accident. As mentioned, seat belts worn properly help protect mom and baby, but what about airbags and other safety issues?

As most of you know, airbags are tucked away in the steering wheel, the dashboard, and in some vehicles, along the sides of the seat. When a car is in a collision, airbags must deploy in as little as 20 to 30 milliseconds. If you are not safely restrained, you can be hurt by an inflating airbag. However, women are advised never to turn off the airbags. Instead, you should:

  • Move the front seat as far back as possible.
  • Make sure your breastbone is at least 10 inches from the steering wheel.
  • Move the seat back as your abdomen grows to keep as much distance as possible between the steering wheel and the airbag while still operating your vehicle safely.
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