Seatbelts during pregnancy

Everyone, including pregnant women, should wear a seatbelt when riding in a car. When used properly, seat belts help save lives and can lower the chances of you getting badly hurt in a car accident.

How can a car accident affect pregnancy?

Depending on how badly you’re hurt, being in a car accident can increase your risk for serious complications during pregnancy, including:

  • Preterm labor. This is labor that begins too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Premature rupture of the membranes (also called PROM). This is when the sac around the baby breaks before a woman goes into labor.
  • Placental abruption. This is a serious condition in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus (womb) before birth.  The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
  • Miscarriage. This is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Wearing your seatbelt correctly can help protect both you and your baby from injury. Wear your seatbelt all throughout your pregnancy any time you ride in a car. 

If you’re in a car accident, get medical treatment quickly to make sure you and your baby are OK. If you have contractions, pain in your belly or blood or fluid leaking from your vagina, call your health care provider right away.  

What’s the correct way to wear a seatbelt when you’re pregnant?

Here’s how:

  • Always wear both the lap belt and the shoulder strap. Make sure they both fit you snugly. 
  • Buckle the lap belt under your belly and over your hips. Never place the lap belt across your belly. 
  • Put the shoulder strap between your breasts and off to the side of your belly. Never place the shoulder strap under your arm. 
  • If it adjusts, fix the length of the shoulder strap to fit you correctly. 

What are some other ways to help you stay safe when driving?

Here are some tips for safe driving during pregnancy:

  • Try to limit driving to no more than 5 to 6 hours per day. Driving can be tiring for anyone.
  • If your car has airbags, don’t turn them off. Instead, try to tilt your seat away from the dashboard and move it as far back from the dashboard as you can.

Last reviewed: April, 2014