Contrary to popular belief, pregnant women should wear seat belts, not only to save themselves in the event of a car accident but also to save their fetuses. The finding is the result of recent research published in the April issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. According to the study, almost 200 fetuses each year — half of all fetal losses in motor-vehicle crashes — could be saved if pregnant women wore seat belts properly.
Simply put, this research proves that pregnant women need to be properly wearing three-point seat belts (a lap belt integrated with a shoulder belt).
Approximately 170,000 motor vehicle crashes each year in the United States involve pregnant women, and some 100 – 400 fetuses are lost as a result — more than the number of children under 1 year of age who die in such crashes, and more than the total number of children who die from bicycle accidents. Even if a fetus survives an automobile accident in which the mother was unbuckled, premature delivery as a result of accident injuries commonly leads to low birth weight, respiratory problems and long-term physical or neurological problems. Considering all types of automobile crashes, fetuses were found to be 4.5 times more likely to survive if the mother was wearing the proper seat belt restraint at the time of the accident, regardless of whether or not the air bag deployed on impact.
Among other research findings:
- "Regular use of seat belts by pregnant women will prevent 84 percent of fetal injuries and deaths as a result of car accidents.
- Women in car crashes where the fetus is injured or dies are unbelted 62 percent of the time.
- 79 percent of pregnant women who properly wore a three-point belt, with or without air bag deployment, had ‘acceptable’ fetal outcomes in less severe crashes.
- Air bags do not seem to adversely affect fetal outcomes."
For pregnant women, it is important that the lap-belt portion of a three-point restraint should be worn low across the pelvis, so that if there is a crash, the pelvis is what the seat belt is restraining rather than transmitting the force of an impact to the uterus or the abdomen. Properly worn, a shoulder belt should simply come up from the side, divide the breasts, and cross over the shoulder.
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