Pregnant women often worry that buckling up their seat belts in the car may somehow harm the baby in their belly during an accident.  Now a recent study by Luley and colleagues published in the Americal Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on February 25, 2013 debunks that potentially fatal myth.  The study demonstrates a significantly lower risk of fetal death and maternal injury in pregnant women who wore seat belts and were involved in a motor vehicle accident.

The researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Duke University Medical Center reviewed all cases in the Duke Trauma registry of women more than 14 weeks pregnant who were involved in a car accident and received care in the Duke Emergency Room between January 1994 and December 31, 2010.  At 14 weeks is when the uterus first appears above the pelvic brim and the pregnancy location is more abdominal rather than encased in the pelvis.

The rate of fetal death in the women who were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident was 25%, while the rate of fetal death in the women who were buckled up was only 3.5% – a statistically significant difference.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that seat belts be worn at all times regardless of stage of pregnancy.  They recommend that the lap belt be fitted low across the hip bones, below the belly.

This study clearly demonstrates that seat belt use saves even unborn lives.

Bottom line – Buckle up!

Copyright Serena H. Chen, MD 2013

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