Experts share the must-knows of protecting yourself and your baby during pregnancy by practicing proper seat belt use.

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An image of a pregnant woman fastening her safety belt in her car.
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From skipping sushi to attending regular check-ups, expectant parents aim to take every precaution possible to protect their baby on the way. But accidents happen. Researchers point out that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in pregnant women, and even after minor trauma, there is risk of fetal complications.

That's why Dr. Katie Waldman, an emergency room specialist in Australia, recently decided to share a PSA on the subject. Dr. Waldman explained in a TikTok that she recently treated an expectant mom who had been involved in a T-bone crash, reported TODAY Parents. "She came in because she hadn't felt her baby move since the accident. It had been a couple of hours, which is very scary," Dr. Waldman noted.

Thankfully, the baby was OK, but the experience inspired Dr. Waldman to share the best practices of seat belt safety while pregnant.

Here's what you need to know about pregnancy and proper seat belt use, according to Parents.com's own experts.

The Main Dos of Wearing a Seat Belt During Pregnancy

Jamie Stucker, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at University of Colorado Health in Aurora, Colorado, explains that keeping yourself safe is the best way to keep your unborn baby safe, and that means always wearing your seat belt—and wearing it in the correct position.

Specifically, wear both the lap and shoulder belt, says Dr. Stucker. "Your lap belt should sit under pregnant belly, low across hips," she notes. "Your shoulder belt should be appropriately positioned between breasts and not under arm, behind back, or high on neck."

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you should buckle the lap belt so that it fits snugly across your hips and pelvic bone—not on or above your belly—and pull any slack (looseness) out of the belt.

If you're behind the wheel, keep 10 inches between steering wheel and breast bone if possible. "If the space is too tight as your pregnant belly gets bigger, angle steering wheel slightly toward breastbone, not directly into belly," adds Dr. Stucker.

Other best practices she recommends:

  • Use airbags.
  • Always wear your seatbelt even for short distances.
  • Stay aware and alert while driving.

Why It's So Important to Wear Your Seat Belt During Pregnancy

Wearing your seat belt any time you get into a vehicle—whether you're pregnant or not—should be second nature, says Sherry Ross, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

"If a pregnant woman gets in an accident while not wearing a seat belt or not wearing it properly can potentially lead to miscarriage, preterm labor, premature rupture of the fetal membranes, placental separation from the uterine wall, fetal trauma, and death," she explains.

And if you do happen to be in a car accident while pregnant, Dr. Ross recommends notifying your doctor and ensuring that you're evaluated immediately, especially if you start to have uterine contractions, pain, or bleeding.

The Bottom Line

Wearing your seat belt correctly during pregnancy is a simple and effective way to preempt trauma. As Dr. Stucker puts it, keeping yourself safe is the best way to keep your unborn baby safe.

American Baby