Many pregnant woman wonder about correct seat belt use during pregnancy.
Some find the seat belt uncomfortable and hope there’s a better way to wear it that is still safe. Others wonder if using the seat belt while pregnant is really safe.
Experts agree, it is safer to always wear a seat belt while pregnant than not wearing one at all.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged 5 to 34. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “automobile crashes are the largest single cause of death for pregnant women and the leading cause of traumatic fetal injury mortality in the United States.” For women 20 weeks or more into gestation, trauma caused by car crashes account for about 80% of all lost pregnancies, followed by falls and assaults, based on data from NSW Midwives Data Collection.
Seat belts have been the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes. It’s essential to wear your seat belt while pregnant and wear it correctly.
Download our free PDF guide: Safer Driving During Pregnancy
Positioning the seat belt while pregnant
According to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) the current best practice for seat belt positioning on a pregnant woman is:
- the shoulder portion at mid chest, mid shoulder
- the lap portion of the seat belt positioned as low as possible and under the pregnancy, if possible
- it should be snug on your hips and touching your thighs
Wearing the Seat Belt During Pregnancy
The way Erin, the woman in the video, is carrying she is able to get and typically keep the seat belt under her pregnant belly. Other women find putting the seat belt under their pregnancy next to impossible whether because they are carrying lower and there is no space to put it under the belly or because of the discomfort of the belt cutting into their belly. (And the graphics showing the baby right in the middle of the stomach notwithstanding, the reality is the pregnancy is lower in the pelvis especially for low-carrying women or later stages of pregnancy, so there is no way to get the seat belt “under” the pregnancy.)
Erin, mother-to-be of her fourth, finds putting the seat belt under the pregnancy comfortable at first. However, after a couple minutes she says she finds it starts to feel uncomfortable and she finds herself regularly pushing the seat belt down even though her belly has grown large enough to mostly keep it in place underneath.
As a child passenger safety technician, Erin’s concern with NHTSA’s best practice positioning is that the seat belt is not actually touching her hip bones. (An occupant in a car wants the seat belt making contact with the strongest part of his body which is the hip bones.)
“In a crash by belly is going to receive all of that pressure before it makes contact with my hips,” she says. She estimates the seat belt is pushed about 4 or 5 inches out in front of her hip bones.
What about a seat belt positioning device for pregnant women?
The Tummy Shield is an alternative seat belt positioning device for pregnant moms.
Erin shows us how easy it is to use the Tummy Shield along with seat belt while pregnant. It is already prepositioned and buckled onto her vehicle seat. Start by loosening the lap portion of the seat belt a bit, pulling it down and into the anchor point on the Tummy Shield. Then pull the seat belt snug.
The Tummy Shield is a crash-tested, highly engineered safety device that is intended to withstand the crash forces of a crash, redirecting the crash energy to the upper legs and keeping that crash energy from compressing the baby.
Erin says using the Tummy Shield definitely feels more comfortable. She feels the seat belt is secure and closer to her hips with the Tummy Shield. And there is no pressure on her belly.
This is the second pregnancy during which Erin has used the Tummy Shield. As a former engineer and current Child Passenger Safety Technician, she researched the crash testing the Tummy Shield underwent. She has no concerns about using it even though it is currently an unregulated product.
We want people to know and understand the importance of using the Tummy Shield. A great deal of science and testing has gone into this pregnancy seat belt positioner’s development.
We want to know, were you able to “correctly” and comfortably wear your seat belt while pregnant? Share your comments below.
By Greg Durocher, CEO at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Technician Instructor since 2002
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.
We originally published this post in June 2016. We updated the article for accuracy and comprehensiveness.