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Study Examines Seat Belt Safety for Moms-To-Be

PHOTO: Expectant mothers should buckle up; it's safer for them and their pregnancy. Courtesy of Microsoft Images.
PHOTO: Expectant mothers should buckle up; it's safer for them and their pregnancy. Courtesy of Microsoft Images.
March 14, 2013

CASPER, Wyo. - Expectant mothers often worry that having a seat belt buckled can damage their unborn child in a crash, but a new study has found that not wearing a seat belt actually increases the chance of losing the pregnancy more than if the mother is belted in.

According to Brandi Thompson with Safe Kids Iowa, the best way to protect the unborn child is to protect the mom-to-be, but she noted there is a right and a wrong way to put on a seat belt for a woman who is pregnant.

"The lap portion of the belt needs to be placed securely underneath the baby, underneath the belly so it's crossing the woman's hard hip bones," Thompson specified.

The study found that overly cautious, first-time mothers are more likely to drive unrestrained, and that children who have been taught the habit of buckling up will prompt their mothers to do the same. Wyoming's general seat belt use rate is 77 percent. Nationally, it is 88 percent.

Some are concerned that the impact from an inflating air bag could cause injury to an unborn child, but that is also unfounded, Thompson said. She advised keeping as much space as possible between an expectant mom and the air bag, however.

"Move that driver's seat or front passenger seat back, away from where that air bag is going to deploy, trying to keep a 10-inch distance between the center of the woman's chest and the steering wheel or dashboard," she said.

Duke University Medical Center did the research, looking at 120 car crashes that involved pregnant women.

The study, in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is available at http://www.ajog.org. State seat belt statistics are at http://bit.ly/Xv6rNJ, and national statistics are at http://bit.ly/Zny0EI.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY