Years ago, nobody thought much about seat belts. When they did think about them, people weren't sure if they were actually safe or not. It took some aggressive national ad campaigns reminding people to "Buckle Up," a few redesigns in vehicles (to make it much harder to forget the seat belt), and even legislation that makes it possible for drivers to be fined when they don't wear their safety restraints, for that to change.
However, even with all that, pregnant women are often troubled about the idea of wearing seat belts. They often still wonder if it's really safe for their unborn child. If you're a mom-to-be, here's what you should know about seat belt safety.
Not wearing your seat belt is dangerous to you and your baby.
Frankly, just getting into a car while you're pregnant carries certain risks. Accidents are unpredictable, and they can lead to physical trauma that can put your health -- and your baby's health in danger. Not wearing a safety restraint increases the changes that you'll experience any of the following:
- Bruises, broken bones, and head trauma
- Premature rupturing of the amniotic sac that protects the baby
- Preterm labor set in motion by the accident
- Miscarriage (when a baby dies prior to 20 weeks of gestation)
- Placental abruption, which causes the placenta to separate from the uterine wall
- Stillbirth (when a baby dies after 20 weeks of gestation)
Wearing your seat belt every time you get into a car is the number one way to protect yourself and your child from serious injury. Short of staying out of a car the entire pregnancy, it's the safest thing you can do.
Wearing your seat belt incorrectly is also dangerous to your baby's health.
If you've suspected that your vehicle's safety restraint could actually hurt your baby, you haven't been all wrong: Wearing it incorrectly can be dangerous. Every pregnant woman should know the right way to use a seat belt in order to maximize her safety in a car. Here are the most important things to remember:
- Put your lap belt across your hips (over your pelvis) but under your belly. Your lap belt should never be allowed to cross over your stomach at any stage of the pregnancy.
- Guide the shoulder harness so that it lies between your breasts and around the curve of your stomach. It should fit snugly, but not so tight that you feel uncomfortable.
- Don't slip the shoulder harness off and tuck it behind your back. In an accident, all the pressure would go on the lap belt -- and that could break your pelvis.
Finally, if you're having trouble fitting into your seatbelt because of your growing stomach, there are extension kits available for a few dollars at every auto supply store. Get one. You don't want to take chances right now.
If you are in a car accident while you are pregnant, see a doctor immediately -- even if you think you are fine. It's also wise to talk to a car accident attorney as soon as possible -- before you speak to any insurance adjusters. That's the best way to protect your rights and the rights of your unborn child.