Your seat belt is your baby’s first car seat. When worn properly, the seat belt will help keep you and your unborn child safe in a crash. Everyone – pregnant or not – should wear their seat belt in the same way.
The lap belt should rest low and flat on the tops of the thighs; this ensures that the lap belt will start and stay on the strong hip bones. If the lap belt rests on the abdomen, the forces of the crash are put on the weakest, most vulnerable organs in the body – the kidneys, liver, spleen, intestines, and lower spinal cord – and for pregnant moms, the baby & placenta too.
BEWARE of seat belt positioning devices for pregnant moms. There are ZERO government safety standards or crash test standards for seat belt positioning devices (despite the exceptionally crafty marketing on many of these) and most have a high probability of endangering both you and your unborn baby. By moving the seat belt into a different position and/or changing how the seat belt functions these products introduce slack into the belt — which is very dangerous — not to mention many of them are so poorly designed that they actually place the lap belt on the uterus — which is the absolute worst place the lap belt could ever be.
While there is a pregnant crash dummy, it is not sophisticated enough to determine whether seat belt positioning devices for pregnant women could be harmful. Most of these positioning devices haven’t been tested with the pregnant dummy either. It appears that the dummy used in the Pixie testing is a male crash dummy that they then stuffed to create breasts and a bump.
Below are two, of unfortunately many, examples of these positioning devices; we have highlighted the risks they could pose to mom and baby.
With regard to products like the Pixie Pregnancy Seat Belt that try to change how the shoulder belt rests, it is important to note that real world evidence does not point to the shoulder belt being a problem. Kathleen Klinich, a leading researcher who published a 2008 study on pregnant women in crashes noted that “There’s nothing I know of suggesting that the shoulder belt is responsible for loading the pregnant abdomen; case reports I have seen indicate that if there is a problem, it is loading from the lap belt which is riding up too high over the abdomen.”
Real world crashes show that shoulder & lap belts are effective at reducing injury to mom & fetus withOUT extra seat belt positioning devices. This 2008 study of pregnant women in crashes estimated that if proper belt use among pregnant women went from 80% to 100%, it would reduce the number of fetal deaths in car crashes by half. This study showed that the best way to protect the baby is by protecting the mom – and the best way to do that is for mom to wear a shoulder & lap belt properly. Moms who wore a shoulder & lap belt were 4.5 times more likely to have an acceptable fetal outcome in a crash than moms who didn’t wear a seat belt.
A lot of pregnant moms worry about the airbag. Don’t. Data from this study suggests that restraint by an airbag plus shoulder & lap belt leads to fetal outcomes that are as good as restraint by just a shoulder & lap belt; airbags do not appear to worsen fetal outcomes.