Is It Safe to Wear a Seat Belt While Pregnant?

Everyone, including pregnant women, should wear a seat belt while riding in a car. Seat belts are the most effective way to save lives and reduce potential injuries in the event of a crash. However, pregnant women need to take some extra precautions while wearing their seat belts to keep themselves and their babies safe.

How to Wear a Seat Belt While Pregnant

The safest type of seat belt is a lap and shoulder belt combination.

Position the seat belt correctly. The belt should cross over your collar bone and lay between your breasts. Make sure it doesn't hit your neck. Never put the shoulder belt under your arm or behind your back. The lap belt should go under your belly, across your hips. It should never be on or above your belly.

Adjust your seat position. As your body changes throughout pregnancy, make sure to adjust your seat position in the car. There should always be a safe distance between your belly and the steering wheel (about 10 inches).

After you adjust your seat, make sure you can still comfortably reach the accelerator, brake, and clutch. It's also helpful to check the mirrors to ensure you can see clearly.

Tips to Keep You Safe While Driving

Some other ways you can help keep yourself and your baby safe while driving include:

Keep airbags on. Leave airbags on whether driving a car or riding as a passenger. Experts agree that airbags help protect both mother and baby in the event of a crash.

Pay attention to how you feel. If you're feeling tired, sick, or under the weather, let yourself rest and drink some fluids. Wait to drive until you're feeling better.

Sit in the passenger seat. As your pregnancy progresses and your belly gets bigger, avoid driving. It’s safer to sit in the passenger seat.

If you do drive, take caution. Reposition the seat so your belly is at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel. Tilt the steering wheel up toward your breastbone so it doesn't press on your belly, and always wear your seat belt.

Consider using a seat belt positioner. Belt positioners can make you more comfortable and may help redirect the seat belt in the event of an accident. Of course, check with your doctor before using a belt positioner to make sure this is a safe choice for you.

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Using a Belt Positioner While Pregnant

There are 3 common styles of seat belt positioners designed for pregnant women:

  • Soft material positioners designed to keep the lap belt under the belly
  • Positioners that use a hook to anchor the seat belt between the legs, moving the belt away from the belly area
  • A cushion or pillow that is placed between the belly and the seat belt

Keep in mind that not all belt positioners are created the same way. Before you purchase one, keep some of these considerations in mind.

How a Car Accident Can Affect Pregnancy

Driving safely and wearing a seatbelt can help protect you and your baby, but sometimes accidents happen. Here is how a car accident might affect your pregnancy:

Preterm labor. Depending on how badly you’re injured, a car accident could cause you to go into labor too early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). 

Premature rupture. An accident could cause the sac around the baby to burst before a woman goes into labor. 

Placental abruption. This condition occurs when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus or womb before birth. This is dangerous because the placenta grows in your womb and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. 

Miscarriage. When the baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

Stillbirth. When the baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

Warning signs that something might be wrong could include:

  • Contractions
  • Pain in your belly
  • Blood leaking from your vagina

If you get into a car accident, seek medical care right away. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 12, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Seat Belt Safety: Pregnancy.” 

March of Dimes: "Seatbelts during pregnancy."

Slidell Memorial: “Pregnancy and Driving Safety.” 

Virginia Department of Health: “Pregnancy and Seatbelts.” 

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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