Seat Belt use during Pregnancy

It is very likely that as your pregnancy progresses, you will need to travel somewhere by car whether on a regular basis or for the odd journey. Travelling by car is safe to do so in pregnancy as long as you follow some simple guidelines and understand the safety issues regarding you and your bump.

Being pregnant is not an excuse to not wear a seatbelt whilst travelling in a car with them fitted. You still need to wear a seatbelt regardless of whether you are sitting in the front or the back seats of the car. However, in extreme and rare cases, your doctor may certify an exemption for you to not wear your seatbelt.

It is very important that you ensure that your seatbelt is fitted safely and you will need to take extra care adjusting your seat belt. If possible, try and always use a three-point harness seatbelt (with the diagonal strap as well as the lap belt) as this is much safer for both you and your unborn baby than just a lap belt.

How to ensure a good fit

  1. Ensure that the diagonal strap is between your breasts and sitting on your shoulder and not your neck. Move it around your bump if this feels more comfortable.
  2. Place the lap belt on your thighs, across your hips and under your bump, not across it.
  3. Make sure your seatbelt is as tight as possible.

If you are driving the car, you may need to move the seat position in order to make room for your bump. However, you must always make sure that you can easily and quickly reach the clutch, brake and accelerator at all times. If you have moved your seat, make sure that you also adjust your mirrors.

As your pregnancy progresses and your bump gets larger, you may find driving or travelling in a car uncomfortable. You should try and have regular breaks during long journeys to reduce the risk of swelling in your legs or ankles and to help prevent backache.

If you are involved in a car accident, even if it is minor, it is vital that you inform your midwife or doctor, who will likely advise checking both you and your baby over.

“In an accident, a seat belt reduces the risk of injury to your unborn child by up to 70 per cent”
(THINK, road safety)

Air Bag use in Cars
Air Bags can cause much confusion during pregnancy and many women wonder if it is safe to sit in a car with air bags fitted. The answer to this is yes. If you are involved in an accident, an airbag will help to keep you and your unborn baby safe.

Air bags are often installed in front seats of cars although some cars may also have them in the back seats too. An airbag is designed to inflate automatically if the car should be in a collision, it creates a protective cushion between the person and the steering wheel or dashboard.

Air bags are designed to work alongside your seatbelt. As long as you are wearing your seatbelt correctly, there is no need to worry extensively about your unborn baby’s safety should your airbag inflate in an accident.

From being in a car during a serious accident where the airbag inflates, you are very likely to receive injuries to your eyes, face, arms or chest from being jerked forwards into the bag.  However, it is important to remember that although there is a possibility that you may suffer from injuries as a result from a serious collision, the injuries that you would receive from not using an airbag would be far worse.

If you are involved in any type of car accident, it is important that you inform your midwife as soon as possible, even if you feel fine.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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