Pregnancy and Seat Belt Use

While most mothers would never dream of placing their children in harm’s way by putting them into a car without making sure they are buckled in, a lot of women dispense of seat belts during pregnancy because they either don’t like the way that they feel or worry that seat belt constriction could pose a significant threat to their unborn baby in the event of an accident.

Seat Belt Use: Greatest Predictor of Maternal and Fetal Health Outcomes in Car Accidents

The leading cause of death among pregnant women is motor vehicular accidents, far more than the number of women who die from birthing complications each year.  WEARING A SEAT BELT IS CONSIDERED THE BEST WAY TO PROTECT A MOTHER AND HER UNBORN CHILD IN THE EVENT OF A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecologyconcluded that the greatest indicator for predicting fetal health outcomes in motor vehicular accidents was seat belt use. Statistics drawn from a number of recent obstetrics and prevention studies underscore this finding:

  • 80% of the unrestrained pregnant women involved in one study experienced negative fetal health outcomes, including death of the unborn baby.
  • Women who do not wear a seat belt are three times more likely to lose their baby and twice as likely suffer serious internal bleeding.

The precise number of fetal deaths due to car accidents each year is unknown, but health experts estimate that it ranges somewhere between 300 and 1,000. That’s four times the car traffic fatality rate for infants and children up to the age of four.

Potential for Placenta-Uterine Detachment is Major Risk

The primary health risk to the unborn baby exposed to the force of impact is placenta-uterine detachment. The tissue at the attachment site is relatively weak, and even minor trauma can cause the placenta to separate from the uterine wall. When this occurs, the baby loses oxygen. Approximately 80% of all fetal deaths from car accidents are attributed to placenta detachment. Fetal distress can occur very quickly after the placenta ruptures. Any pregnant woman who has been involved in a car accident—no matter how minor—should seek immediate medical attention. It is possible for the unborn baby to be injured even if the accident is seemingly minor and the mother feels “fine”. It is extremely important—both for the mother’s and the baby’s health—to go to the nearest hospital emergency room where the fetus’ vital signs can be appropriately monitored for a period of time.

Proper Use of Seat Belt for Pregnant Women

Despite the discomfort that a pregnant woman may experience in wearing seat belts, especially as the pregnancy progresses, the shoulder and lap belt should both be used for optimal safety.  The seat belt should be fastened around the lower bony part of the pelvis and underneath—not around— the abdomen. The shoulder restraint should also be used, placed diagonally across the chest and to the side of the abdomen to protect the fetus.  Air bags employed in combination with seat belts provide the best protection for the pregnant woman and her unborn baby and should never be turned off.  The biggest risk to pregnant drivers is posed by the steering wheel due to the potential for the abdomen hitting it. Pregnant drivers should sit as far back from the steering wheel as possible by adjusting the seat.

Consult an Experienced Fetal Injury Lawyer

If you are pregnant and have been involved in an accident, seek immediate medical attention! Do not assume that you are fine. Your unborn baby may not be. If you or your baby was injured or died due to an accident caused by the negligence or purposeful actions of another, please contact us for a free consultation. We are compassionate, experienced and skilled in handling personal injury cases, including those involving fetal injury or death.  Call us at 314-409-7060 or 855-40-CRASH (toll free).

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