If you're pregnant, you've likely heard how critical it is that you have a well-designed car seat to protect your baby in a car crash. These seats are so important, hospitals often won't allow parents to place their newborn in a vehicle without an infant seat. It's true: car seats save lives. But have you considered what is necessary to protect the life of your unborn baby (and yourself) during pregnancy?
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the seat belt provides the very best protection in an automobile for a pregnant woman and her unborn child. There is absolutely no evidence that seat belts increase the chance of injury to the fetus, uterus, or placenta—no matter how severe the collision. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts reduce the risk of death for front seat occupants in passenger cars by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent.
How to Buckle Up Your Unborn Baby
Using a seat belt correctly is important for everyone, but proper belt use and positioning are especially crucial for the pregnant woman. Here's the right way to wear the belt:
- Use both the shoulder belt and the lap belt.
- Position the lap belt low, below your tummy. That way, your hipbones absorb any impact, rather than your belly (and your baby!). Never place the belt above or on your belly.
- Make sure the shoulder strap is over your shoulder, not under it.
- The shoulder strap should be snug across your chest, between your breasts, and cross your abdomen diagonally. This gives you full protection from crashing into the steering wheel or being thrown from the car.
- If your seat belt is uncomfortable, adjust it. Many cars allow you to modify the height of the shoulder belt to a more comfortable position. If your car does not have this feature, attach a thick piece of foam to the belt strap to make it more comfortable.