Traveling in motor vehicles is inherently a risky activity for all of us, however the risk increases considerably if you are pregnant. According to 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.”
There have been many real world experiences and several official studies done that have started to open the world’s eyes to the issue of injuries caused by the transfer of energy through the seat belt to pregnant women and their unborn babies. It has been demonstrated that during a crash the lap portion of the seat belt can penetrate into the abdomen area causing injury to mom and the developing baby (fetus).
Even NHTSA while describing their recommendation for how to wear the seat belt pregnant while pregnant says:
The seat belt is one of the most fundamental pieces of technology that has been offered to us. The sad reality is that the conventional 3-point lap and shoulder belt was not designed for, or required to be tested for, it’s effects on pregnant women or their unborn child when involved in motor vehicle crashes.
To date the best official recommendation by the medical field, the government and auto manufacturers is: “The lap belt should be placed below your belly, touching your thighs, and low and snug on your hip bones.”
In reality several independent studies, including a study conducted by Tummy Shield, found that the seat belt always lifted and rested firmly across the belly.
The amount of potentially injury causing energy in a crash can be hard to comprehend. One simplified formula (though not technically precise) is speed x weight, i.e.: a 120 pound occupant going 30mph would require almost 6,000 pounds of restraining force to restrain them if there were no other means to absorb and dissipate the crash energy.
Most people involved in such an accident will sustain lacerations and bruising from the restraining system, mainly the seat belt and in more serious cases internal injuries. However, when pregnant, no matter how good the restraint is it will ultimately have to be in front of the fetus, therefore the fetus becomes the first point of energy absorption.
For this reason most studies have shown that even in a minor crash or hard braking, a fetus will most likely sustain some injury even if the mother is not injured at all. According to a study conducted by Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC) “Pregnant women who are hospitalized following motor vehicle crashes are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, even if they are not seriously injured or not injured at all.”
We believe the Tummy Shield™ is the very best option available today to remove the possibility of the lap portion of the seat belt intruding into the abdominal area causing injury to mom, baby or uterus/placenta.
If you are pregnant and you drive, to-date the only advice you will be given is “Never place the belt over the abdomen, belt should be placed low, across the hips and over upper thighs, under the pregnancy.” Even when worn “correctly” as low as it can go, the seat belt still crosses over the pregnancy, especially as the pregnancy advances and the baby is lower in the pelvis. Plus, studies have shown that while driving the seat belt tends to move up and rest higher on the abdomen area.
In a frontal collision or emergency braking, the sudden deceleration can cause you as a driver or a passenger to slide down under the lap section of the seat belt, towards the dashboard and footwell this motion is referred to as submarining. The result of submarining is serious abdominal, pelvic and spinal injuries. During pregnancy submarining can cause serious harm to the fetus.
During a crash or sudden braking there is nothing to stop pregnant women from moving forward except the seat belt across the tummy and hence pressure on the baby. Most, if not all, new vehicles are now equipped with pre-tensioning seat belts, which means that in the event of a crash or sudden braking the seat belt will automatically tension at an immense force causing pressure on the tummy.
The Tummy Shield serves two primary purposes:
There are several studies that have been done which demonstrate that even a “properly positioned” seat belt can do harm to mom and/or fetus.
Remember race car drivers and children’s car seat manufacturers utilize multiple points of anchoring to the vehicle over and above the 3 points offered by a conventional 3-point “lap and shoulder” belt found in most motor vehicles today. This is referred to as the “harness system.” It uses the strongest parts of the body, pelvis and shoulder, to avoid causing internal injuries to soft tissues.
The Tummy Shield™ utilizes this same principle to protect the growing fetus in the mother’s uterus during the gestational period. The Tummy Shield™ simply converts any three point lap and shoulder belt into a harness system hence protecting the fetus from the pressure/energy of the seat belt on the tummy during a crash or sudden braking.
The Tummy Shield™ is the earliest first step in keeping children safe from the inherent dangers of living in today’s motorized world. Seat belts, as originally designed and traditionally used, are intended to keep mom safe and by default, keep baby safe.
The unfortunate reality is that even though mom’s who wear seat belts are more likely to be uninjured in a statistically “typical” crash, there is evidence that the seat belt is in-fact contributing to certain types of injuries to mom and baby. According to 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.”
The Tummy Shield™ is a specially engineered, patented and tested, single-piece more than 6 lbs. stainless steel assembly (plate and hook) molded inside a comfortable cushion and cover, which meet non-flammability requirements. The entire assembly is restrained with a webbing strap made of the same type of webbing as seat belts (just a smaller version), which wraps the vehicle seat and is secured with a buckle. The webbing strap is there to restrain and transfer the momentum energy of the Tummy Shield™ itself to the vehicle seat structure; thereby minimizing any crash force energy pushing pushing the lower extremities out from under the seat belt, an action called submarining.
One of the biggest challenges the inventor faced is that the technology has not been invented yet to accurately duplicate the experience of an unborn baby in the womb during a crash scenario nor is there is a test dummy that truly represents the anatomy of a human much less a pregnant woman. The inventor was then left to use the available testing technology and most applicable standards, though not specifically for their product, and strive to infer the affects of the product using the best science available.
It’s worth mentioning the inventor is an engineer and father of four children himself. He has spared no expense or expertise during the design and testing of the Tummy Shield™. In fact, his wife used the Tummy Shield™ during the pregnancy of three of their children after the first had been born with a head injury from an almost crash months earlier.
Since its release in 2011, the Tummy Shield™ has already proved its effectiveness several times in real life situations by protecting several pregnant moms and their unborn babies who were involved in serious motor vehicle crashes from serious injuries. We believe the Tummy Shield™ has undergone meaningful “Due Diligence” testing and is effective at protecting mom and baby better than just a “properly positioned seat belt” and does not introduce any new risk to a crash scenario.
Using the Tummy Shield does take a few extra inches of seat belt webbing. If you are already using the extent of the seat belt length, you may need to get a seat belt extender to be able to use the Tummy Shield.
Federal standards that specify the length of auto seat belts date back four decades and only require that seat belts accommodate a 215-pound man. When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considered changing the rules in 2003, it estimated that more than 38 million people, or 19 percent of the total U.S. population, were larger than the seat belt requirements. The NHTSA decided not to revise its standards since most top manufacturers including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. have seat belts that are longer than required. The companies each provide an average of 18-20 inches of extra belt length, more than enough to accommodate the largest percentage of drivers.
Many of those manufacturers also have seat belt extensions or longer belts that can be purchased or installed at dealerships. Some offer extensions for free. Several foreign brands, such as Honda, BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, do not provide seat belt extenders. Extensions have to be used carefully because they can be hazardous if used by passengers who are too small, said Phil Haseltine, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety. According to the NHTSA, an incorrectly sized seat belt extender could fail to provide upper body restraint and may pull the lap belt onto the abdomen during a front impact, possibly leading to internal injury.
There are several other products on the market which are intended to make the seat belt more comfortable for pregnant women. These products achieve moving the seat belt lower on or “off” the abdomen by using Velcro®, clips or a pillow. These methods could introduce slack into the seat belt system which could allow for additional movement of the occupant during a crash and do not achieve reducing the risk of injury to the mom and baby from the lap portion of the seat belt.
We feel that though these products may add a level of comfort to the mom-to-be, they do not offer the safety factor or the comfort provided by the Tummy Shield™. As we mentioned above, the energy/force of the seat belt during sudden braking or an accident will require much more restraint than a Velcro® strap or a clip to keep the seat belt low or off the abdomen. The Tummy Shield™ is the only product that uses a highly engineered, high-tensile-strength steel hook assembly which has been crash tested at high speed to ensure it withstands the crash forces and keeps the integrity of the seat belt intact; thus, providing moms-to-be comfort and safety.
Read more about what to look for in a pregnancy seat belt positioner.
Yes! The Tummy Shield™ has undergone several types of testing:
The manufacturer has done significant “integrity testing” to ensure, to the highest practical degree (ie. 225 male test dummy at speeds exceeding the required test speed for the performance of the seat belt according ADR). They also did instrumented testing on the 5th% female Hybrid III. FMVSS 209 regulates seat belt testing criteria in the U.S. and requires that the breaking point of the webbing for a seat belt be tested to 22,341 Newtons of force. The anchor point on the Tummy Shield is tested to 22,000 Newtons of force or about 5,000 pounds (1,000 newtons = 225 lbs so the 340 newtons difference is a of about 100 lbs. of force — miniscule in crash force terms). We can say with confidence that the anchor point (hook) of the Tummy Shield is tested to the same breaking point as the other components of the seat belt assembly, including the breaking point of the webbing as required by federal safety standards.
The Tummy Shield™ was tested in a dynamic sled test utilizing the 5% Female Hybrid III outfitted in a typical production vehicle seat to investigate the Biomechanical Response of the Tummy Shield with the female dummy which simulate a crash test at high speed. The results of these tests demonstrated that:
In order to go above and beyond, the dynamic sled tests that are required for passenger vehicle seat belt systems by ADR 04/00, further tests were performed using the 50% Male Hybrid III test dummy (which is much heavier than a female dummy and not required for this product) outfitted with the Tummy Shield™. All test results were within the specifications allowed by ADR guidelines. Both USA FMVSS standards and ADR guidelines require similar tests with a velocity change from 48 km/h (approximately 30mph) resulting in at least 28 g of acceleration.
No. When used correctly, the seat belt will still fit snugly when using the Tummy Shield™ only the belt will be redirected from the abdomen to the upper thigh area.
The Tummy Shield’s internal stainless steel components, including the “anchor” that directly holds the lap portion of the seat belt on the legs/lower pelvis and off the abdomen, were all designed to conform Australian Design Rule 5/04 – Anchorages for Seat Belts. The structural integrity has been validated using a static test of 22,000N.
What this means is that the structural components of the Tummy Shield™ meet or exceed the same testing standard that regulates the seat belt anchoring hardware in motor vehicles. All load testing requirements for seat belt assembly performance under United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 209 are less than the 22,000N the Tummy Shield™ was tested with.
It’s just as if the seat occupant weighed 9 pounds more. It is our understanding that the advanced airbags are not so variable that the extra 9 pounds would make the air bag deploy with more force. Advanced air bags have 3 options in deployment:
Advanced airbag technologies are being developed to tailor airbag deployment to the severity of the crash, the size and posture of the vehicle occupant, belt usage, and how close that person is to the actual airbag. Many of these systems use multi-stage inflators that deploy less forcefully in stages in moderate crashes than in very severe crashes. Occupant sensing devices let the airbag control unit know if someone is occupying a seat adjacent to an airbag, the mass/weight of the person, whether a seat belt or child restraint is being used, and whether the person is forward in the seat and close to the airbag. Based on this information and crash severity information, the airbag is deployed at either at a high force level, a less forceful level, or not at all.
You can watch a general concept of airbags here.
According to NHTSA, the combination of safety belts and air bags offer the best level of protection to pregnant women as long as they follow the same advice as other adults:
We also recommend that during pregnancy, you angle the steering wheel up more so it is being directed above the pregnant belly. The lap belt should be positioned low on the abdomen, below the fetus, with the shoulder belt worn normally. When crashes occur, the fetus can be injured by striking the lower rim of the steering wheel or from crash forces concentrated in the area where a seat belt crosses the mother’s abdomen. The seat belt will keep a pregnant woman as far as possible from the steering wheel. The air bag will help spread out the crash forces that would otherwise be concentrated by the seat belt.
Depending on the vehicle and the seat, it may not have any affect or it may not sense a passenger.
On rare occasions customers have informed us of the Tummy Shield interfering with the sensor in the passenger seat. In fact the first person to bring it to our attention was Taylor who was using the Tummy Shield with a subsequent pregnancy after she had lost her baby, Bailey, in a crash. (You can find more of Taylor and Bailey’s story here. ) Taylor chose to continue using the Tummy Shield after I explained the information below…
In a frontal crash, a properly positioned and restrained passenger may have very little contact with the fully inflated airbag, especially if you take the added precaution, as a pregnant woman, of moving your seat as far back as possible from the dash, which is recommended anyway.
While yes, the airbag is intended to keep you safe, remember it is deployed at a very high speed with a powerful punch. NHTSA says “Sitting as far back from the steering wheel or dashboard as possible and using seat belts help prevent drivers and passengers from being “too close” to a deploying frontal air bag.”
It could be considered OK to not have the airbag activated. Even if your airbag were activated while you are sitting there, we would recommend you sit as far as possible in the passenger seat to reduce actual contact should it deploy in a crash.
Also, remember airbags are considered “supplemental” restraints. In fact you may even see “SRS” embossed into the vehicle near where they are located. SRS stand for “Supplemental Restraint System”. Your seat belt is the “primary” restraint system. The Tummy Shield is made to make THAT system safer for you as an expecting mother because there is nothing in the Federal Safety Standards that actually tests for or documents it’s safety for unborn babies/pregnant women.
Air bags are a “passive” restraint system, meaning you as a passenger don’t have to take action in order to “engage” it. In 1969, the government proposed passive restraints in cars, largely to protect passengers not wearing seat belts. At the time the seat belt usage rate was merely 15%.
The manufacture did instrumented testing on the 5th% female Hybrid III specifically looking at potential injury to the legs, femurs and pelvis. The Tummy Shield was crash tested and measurements were taken in all six axial directions as far as the Hybrid III test dummy allows. What they found is that yes, as expected, there is more energy transferred to the thigh, femur and lower pelvis area.
In lower to moderate speed crashes, which make up the vast majority of crashes, the energy is well below the serious injury threshold. After many reported crashes, there have been no reports of anything beyond minor soft tissue injury. In a severe crash there is always potential for injury, or death, as the crash energy has to be absorbed by the body somewhere.
One study in the Health Science Journal evaluated the injuries caused by seat belts as designed and used says, “The lap component [of seat belt] has been shown to affect the lumbar spine, abdominal wall, pelvis, and intra- and retroperitoneal structures. These types of injuries occur when the restraints were worn properly and by occupants appropriate in size for their use.” Seat belts are designed to engage strong bony structures of the body, namely your pelvis (Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) and your ribs/sternum area. In a crash, these areas absorb the crash force from the seat belt, which keeps you secure but also can cause damage to these areas. Pelvic fractures are particularly dangerous because of the vascular nature of the pelvis itself and the proximity to major internal organs which can be injured. For a pregnant woman, in addition to the colon, small bowel, liver, spleen, etc, there is also the uterus, the baby, the placenta which can all be impacted by the seat belt.
The Tummy Shield removes the direct impact to that area and redirects the restraining force to the thigh/femur. The only impact on the lower pelvis is crash energy being transferred from the femur.
With the Tummy Shield we are choosing to direct that crash energy to the legs/femurs (the largest and strongest bones in the body) versus allowing it to compress and potentially intrude into the pregnant abdomen should the occupant “submarine” under the lap portion of the seat belt. As designed the seat belt is intended to engage the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (ASIS aka hip bone). If the pregnancy has grown to the point of being more anterior of an imaginary straight line drawn between the two hip bones then it will, by default, be compressed by the seat belt in a crash or sudden braking event.
As a former firefighter and paramedic of many years I understand very well that there are MASSIVE amounts of energy that must be managed during a crash and that the human body can only take so much before it results in injury. With the Tummy Shield we are not making any claims that there will not be any injury. We are simply giving mothers a choice as where the crash energy is directed, to her legs and lower pelvis or to the top of her pelvis and potentially into her pregnancy. Placental injury is the most common injury from a car crash that has the potential for severe bleeding for the mom and which compromises the viability of the pregnancy. We believe that by redirecting the crash forces to the legs, though we are increasing the potential for injury there, we are lowering the chances of fatal injury to mom and/or baby. We believe most women would choose a potential leg injury to one that directly affected her pregnancy.
No, the groin along with the belly taken out of the seat belt path. As the torso is thrust forward, the lap belt tightens and compresses on the thigh.
After driving around with one and “testing” it (without crashing but testing a sudden braking) it feels to put the majority of the energy not to the groin but “cinching” the upper thighs.
Much like when car seats (or even seat belts) first went to market, as of now, there are no Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that address testing a product like the Tummy Shield.
Sometimes it takes innovative products to inspire regulations.
Child restraints are regulated and as such all add on items are best tested for continued compliance with the testing standard. CPS techs use the general term “after-market products” to describe the products made to go in/on the car seat that were not built with or crash-tested with the child restraint.
The Tummy Shield has been crash tested so we know it works at least as well as just the seat belt though the comparison tests show us the Tummy Shield reduces the risk of submarining, while redirecting the belt crash force away from the pregnant abdomen. You can see video clips from the crash tests here.
No, it does not.
The Tummy Shield™ has undergone many testing procedures to demonstrate and validate its ability to perform as intended and to ensure that it maintains its structural integrity for the safety of mom and baby. The challenge faced by manufacturers, importers and retailers of innovative new technology is that no such testing criteria exist to test these products, like the Tummy Shield™.
To compound the challenge, other products have been deceptively marketed with statements like, “This product meets all applicable Safety Standards” (when there are none) or “Crash Tested” without providing any information to the consumer about what specifically was tested or how.
At Safe Ride 4 Kids and Tummy Shield™, we want our customers to be able to trust that they are using a product that has undergone meaningful tests and they are making a good informed decision when they buy a Tummy Shield™ to protect mom and baby.
As stated above, the Tummy Shield is technically an aftermarket product and many such products incorrectly claim being crash tested or meeting safety standards that do not exist. Therefore, technicians will make the blanket statement that all aftermarket products are unsafe which may or may not be true depending on the product.
A tech from Car-Seat.Org used the Tummy Shield during her last pregnancy and loved it. Here is what she had to say in response to this question: “There’s a difference between ‘unregulated’ and ‘unsafe.’ I am the tech who test-drove it in my most recent pregnancy. I really did like it. I stop short of outright recommending it because I don’t want that kind of liability. Sadly, we don’t have any standards to test these products against so it’s up to the consumer to make the best guess she can. But the fact is that seat belts don’t have to pass any pregnancy-related safety standards either so NOT using the Tummy Shield is just as much of a judgment call.”
Just like car seats, and seat belts before them, innovation precedes regulation. Perhaps with more education, studies, acceptance and use, there may one day be regulations for safety products for pregnant women to use while driving. We hope to pave the way. We have been sharing the reports, studies and crash test info with various tech organizations. We, unfortunately, have not directly been in touch with all Child Passenger Safety Technicians or organizations, yet. We haven’t had any technicians continue to question it’s safety after learning more about it.
At Safe Ride 4 Kids we recommend that people follow their conscience in such matters. We know that parents are going to get the full spectrum of opinions and information from people who care about them and want to help them make a “good” decision. Some of this input is valid and some is not, but only the parent can synthesize it all and make their own decisions about what is best for their family.
Ultimately healthcare providers, like anyone in a position of authority, can be held liable for the advice and recommendations they provide and will usually recommend against something they are unfamiliar with. While we understand a doctor or healthcare provider’s hesitancy to endorse, recommend or advise the use of any aftermarket product, especially one they have never heard of and/or don’t know all the details about, we believe that it is each individuals responsibility and right to seek out information and options, then make their own informed decisions.
Healthcare providers are extremely busy and likely find it difficult, if not impossible, to be up to speed on the latest advances in technology outside their field of expertise. Because of this reality, we also believe that it is important that we all share new information with our healthcare providers.
At Safe Ride 4 Kids we strive to provide as much information as we can and to make the education process informative and as succinct as we can. Download our Tummy Shield Report to share with your healthcare provider. This describes how the Tummy Shield is the solution, protecting babies from traumatic injuries and deaths, to the dangers of driving while pregnant. Of course you can also direct them to our website especially the Studies & News Stories page.
A few doctors have expressed concern related to the redirected belt path from the anchor point up and around the hips to the vehicle anchor points and how this is related to the femoral artery in the groin area. While Crash Test Dummies are limited in what they can measure, they do take measurements in all six directions at the femur.
We at Safe Ride 4 Kids had a crash test done to document a couple other things and did collect the data on the femurs during those tests. What it showed is that at the standard FMVSS 30 mph crash test there is not enough stress at the mid femur to cause concern, especially as the femurs are the strongest bones in the body.
Much like a new drug, testing can only go so far then we have to put it out into the world and get feedback from real world situations.
The Tummy Shield has been available and protecting Australian moms since 2008 and is now available around the world. There are thousands of them in use and there have been quite a few reported crashes with zero reports of an adverse outcome or injury to the mothers legs or femoral arteries.
All indications are that the Tummy Shield does indeed add a layer of safety for the mom and the unborn baby.
Just in the few months that we have been offering it here in the USA we have had one mother, 7 months pregnant with twins, report to us that she was involved in a crash and there were zero adverse outcomes for anyone. Everyone was fine.
At Safe Ride 4 Kids we are very eager to pursue any reports and collect as much data as we can. We understand the need to collect evidence over time and we replace the product right away for the safety of all.
I can tell you that, as a Firefighter/paramedic I have looked at this product from every angle I can think of and tried to come up with all the risks associated with using the Tummy Shield and at the end of the day I am faced with the reality that the existing seat belt was never designed or intended to provide optimum protection for the pregnant woman or her baby. There is nothing in the FMVSS testing or certification standards that address ensuring that the existing seat belt is safe for a pregnant woman and her baby.
Is it safer than not wear a seat at all? Sure, but that is a long way from being optimum.
While there are certain theoretical risks associated with redirecting the seat belt, as far as I can tell the potential benefits far out way the theoretical risks. I have heard some people object with statements like, “Well this configuration could break a femur”. I have 2 responses to them, one emotional and one scientific. #1 show me a mom who would not prefer a broken leg to loosing her baby in a car crash. #2 If she is involved in a car crash that involves enough crash force to break a femur or two can you imagine what that same crash would have done to the pelvis and the baby? I mean, compared to the femur, the pelvis is a china bowl and way more susceptible to severe, virtually unconfined, bleeding potential.
Then we have to talk about submarining and intrusion of the seat belt into the abdominal area and uterus. During our crash test, which compared using just the seat belt with using the Tummy Shield, it was obvious to see that submarine is all but eliminated when the Tummy Shield is used and it makes total sense when you think about it. There is a reason race car drivers have a harness that has an anchor point in the crotch area. They fully understand how important it is to eliminate submarining.
If you are riding in a SUV or a minivan that has captains chairs in the middle row where you could wrap the Tummy Shield™ strap around the seat, then yes. Otherwise, no, it needs to be strapped around a seat.
No. It has not been tested for use on a airplane. Plus the placement of the large buckle of the airplane lap belt may not allow the Tummy Shield™ to fit correctly.