Is the Tummy Shield a necessary prenatal item?
Some experts have said the Tummy Shield (or any other pregnancy seat belt adjuster) are not a necessary prenatal item.
I can’t blame them. I didn’t think it was necessary either when I was pregnant.
If it was available back then, I would have wanted it as a prenatal must-have for my comfort. My doctors or midwife never talked to me about driving during pregnancy and what little I had seen about it back then I figured was accurate; wear the seat belt low and all is well.
I wondered about it as it rubbed on my bump, as many moms-to-be do. But they were experts. Right?
Who are the Experts?
Actually prenatal healthcare providers spend little time, if any, learning crash dynamics in regard to their pregnant patients. They are taught the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration’s recommendation to wear the seat belt low on the belly or even “below” the pregnancy. And that’s what they go by.
“According to Professor Hank Weiss, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, [who studied the risks posed to pregnant women and fetuses by motor vehicle trauma for more than 20 years] the dangers to pregnant women and fetuses are great enough that doctors should consult with expectant mothers about the risk of driving as a matter of routine,” said an Atlantic City Lab article in 2013 (1).
If your doctor said “don’t use the Tummy Shield, you don’t need it,” it’s likely they aren’t familiar with it and the testing it underwent. A few customer’s doctors said this so they shared our report with them and the doctor later OKed them using the Tummy Shield.
Anyway… When I saw the Tummy Shield for the first time my thought was, “that would have made the seat belt so much more comfortable.”
Greg, on the other hand, had been a paramedic where the protocol is to take any pregnant woman in who was in a crash to the hospital no matter if she seems OK or not. He knew the risk of injury was serious even in minor crashes. When he first saw the Tummy Shield it just made sense as something to reduce injury potential for pregnant women.
It wasn’t until we considered selling the Tummy Shield and we dove deep into the various studies over the year that we realized just how necessary a prenatal item the Tummy Shield is.
Some might say those studying the risk are the real experts.
What the studies say
Here’s a few highlights (we list most of the studies we reviewed here if you want to go more in depth in the driving and pregnancy studies):
- “Automobile crashes are the largest single cause of death for pregnancy women and the leading cause of traumatic fetal injury mortality in the United States,” US National Library of Medicine. Approximately 92,500 pregnant women are injured each year.
- Average of 3,000 estimated number of pregnancies lost every year in the US from car crashes. (1,500-5,000 according to Pearlman 1997 (2); 800-3200 according to Klinich et al 1999 ; 369 after 20 weeks gestation, unknown number before as reporting is not required according to Weiss et al 2001 (3))
- “The risk of adverse fetal outcome for properly restrained pregnant occupants is less than 10% in minor crashes and more than 60% in severe crashes.” (4)
- “Although it was known at that time [1970s] that the lap and shoulder belts posed a significant unintended injury risk to the unborn children of pregnant women (King, Crosby, Stout, Eppinger, (1972). Effects of Lap Belt and Three Point Restraints on Pregnant Baboons Subjected to Deceleration. Fifteenth Stapp Crash Conference Proceedings, SAE #710850, 68-83), over time is has been demonstrated that the lap and shoulder belt system provides a significant improvement in fetal safety relative to the situation where the mother does not use the lap and shoulder belt restraints. However current data shows that risk to the fetus is still elevated, on the order of 5 times greater than the risk to a 0 to 1 year old sibling riding in the same car. (Weiss HB, Sauber-Schatz EK, Herring H., (December, 2011). The Risk of Motor Vehicle Crashes During Pregnancy, American Journal of Obstetrics and Genecology, Vol 1 (4)).” (5)
But don’t take our word for it…
In a 2009 USA Today article, Steve Rouhana, senior technical leader for safety for Ford at the time (now retired), said, “the seat belt is the best safety device in the vehicle today, but it doesn’t mean we can’t make it better.”
Still think maybe it’s not a necessary prenatal item?
How about we ask mothers who credit the Tummy Shield with keeping their baby safe and alive in a crash if Tummy Shield is a necessary prenatal item. Or how about what Taylor told us after losing her baby in a crash prior to finding and learning about the Tummy Shield. She searched while laying in a hospital bed for a solution that could have prevented her loss. We are grateful she allows us to share her story to let other moms know the risk and hopefully save them from the heartache she still feels 3 years later. She thinks the Tummy Shield is such a prenatal must-have she’s bought one for her pregnant friends.
But don’t take just her word for it…
There are other moms who went through the devastation of losing a pregnancy in a car crash (short list here).
Could you be in a crash during pregnancy and be OK not using the Tummy Shield? Yes. And you could be in a crash and not be OK. Will a Tummy Shield definitely protect your pregnancy? To be honest, some crashes are so severe the chances are not good for anyone, Tummy Shield or no. But the Tummy Shield has protected pregnancies in:
- a rollover crash landing on the passenger door where mom hung suspended in the driver’s seat until paramedics arrived. The ER doctor gave her a high-five when he found out she was using a Tummy Shield.
- another rollover crash where the car rolled twice and landed on the roof, mom hung upside down. “The ambulance and emergency crew told me that if it wasn’t for the Tummy Shield, my baby would have had a small chance of surviving; my baby is now 3 months old and healthy as she can be.”
- a mom was driving 80 mph on the freeway in Miami when she got hit, pushed into a guard rail, spun and hit again. That’s a high speed, three collision crash which she and her pregnancy survived using a Tummy Shield
Not only that but…
Some experts might say but using the Tummy Shield could break your femur, a devastating (but survivable) injury, especially during pregnancy.
Let’s think about that for a moment.
If a crash were severe enough to break a femur, the strongest bone in the body. What, pray tell, would have happened to the more china-bowl hip bones and pregnancy?
Download our free PDF guide: Safer Driving During Pregnancy
Secondly, the movement in a crash is typically what they call a submarine movement. This is where the body goes forward and under the lap belt. (Very bad in pregnancy and something the Tummy Shield prevents.) So how would the seat belt laying on top of, not putting pressure on the femur break the femur when the body is moving forward not up into the seat belt? And also why would safety experts design race car harness the same way over the upper thighs?
Is it possible? Sure anything is possible. Is it likely? Not likely. And not something anyone who was in a crash while using it has ever reported to us or the manufacturer in Australia in the 11 years the Tummy Shield has been in use internationally.
Necessity breeds solutions
Obviously we’re not the only ones that think a pregnancy seat belt positioner is a necessary prenatal item to further protect the pregnancy during pregnancy. Just look at all the knockoff products being released.
Made of plastic, poorly positioning the seat belt too far forward of the crotch and not crash tested, we don’t consider them competition. — But be aware some have taken our text – word for word – and clips of our crash videos to use for their own products. (Apparently no one told them it wasn’t nice to steal, even as easy as it is on the internet.) — Until regulations are set for this prenatal must-have and crash testing is required to meet certain standards, unsafe, untested products will continue to be available. Heck even cheap “fake” car seats are available online when it is illegal for manufacturers to sell illegal car seats so it may never not be a problem.
Protection now, just like you will protect later
Of course as a parent you are going to use a car seat once your little one is born. And because you want to protect that precious one, you would even if you didn’t legally have to. Well, the odds of being in a crash are the same during pregnancy as after. One study actually says the odds are greater.
And several studies say the risk of losing your pregnancy during a crash is actually five times greater than the risk of losing your baby in a crash during the first 9 months of your baby’s life. What?! A 2015 study confirmed this statistic with the caveat that the number is only based on the 227 pregnant mothers who died (in which the unborn baby also died) compared to the 60 newborns who died in traffic crashes in 2012. “This ratio likely underestimates the disparity because the risk of crashing is increased during pregnancy [see above link], and we have ignored the many cases in which the mother survives but the fetus does not [Vladutiu CJ, Marshall SW, Poole C, Casteel C, Menard K, Weiss HB. Adverse pregnancy outcomes following motor vehicle crashes. Am J Prev Med 2013;45:629–36.].” (6)
“Traffic safety is an established part of pediatric care and the low rates of motor vehicle traffic fatalities during infancy indicate that such efforts are effective. The current data highlight that such prevention needs to start even earlier as a part of standard prenatal care. Specifically, pregnant women should be advised by their physicians on the even greater importance of road safety before the baby is born,” the 2015 Evans and Redelmeier study concludes.
So in a word, yes. Yes, the Tummy Shield is a necessary prenatal item.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
Copyright 2019 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.
- Goodyear, Sarah, “Should Pregnant Women Be Warned About the Health Risks of Driving?” The Atlantic City Lab. (March 13, 2013)
- Pearlman, M.D., “Motor Vehicle Crashes, Pregnancy Loss and Preterm Labor.” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.Volume 57, Issue 2 (May 1997): p127–132.
- Weiss, HB; Songer, Thomas J.; Fabio, Anthony; “Fetal Deaths Related to Maternal Injury.” The Journal of American Medical Association. Volume 286, Issue 15 (October 2001): p1863-1868.
- Klinich PhD, Kathleen DeSantis; Flannagan PhD, Carol A. C.; Rupp PhD, Jonathan D.; Sochor MD, Mark; Schneider PhD, Lawrence W.; Pearlman MD, Mark D.; “Fetal Outcome in Motor-Vehicle Crashes: Effects of Crash Characteristics and Maternal Restraint.” American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Volume 198, Issue 4 (April 2008): p450.e1–450.e9.
- Hofferberth, James, (2013). Prevention of Fetal Injury in Motor Vehicle Crashes. (Online)
- Evans L, Redelmeier DA. “Traffic Deaths Before and After Birth.” European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology volume 194, (November 2015): p258-259.