Women's Healthcare Topics

Automobile Restraints During Pregnancy - Seatbelts

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Wearing Seat Belts During Pregnancy

When pregnant you may be tempted to avoid using your seatbelt. Unfortunately this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make during pregnancy.

Pregnant women should use automobile restraints 100% of the time while pregnant, whether driving or riding as a passenger. Many pregnant women are misinformed regarding the potential benefits of a restraint system during pregnancy.


Women should always wear their seat belt while pregnant, just as they would when driving under ordinary circumstances. Seat belts are vital for protecting both mother and baby during pregnancy. In the event of a car crash, you and your baby are best protected when you use a seat belt during pregnancy.

Pregnant mothers should always use a lap and shoulder belt during pregnancy. The lap belt and shoulder belt work in combination to help prevent you from being ejected from the vehicle during pregnancy. The lap belt should always fit just under your pregnant belly, right across your hips and high on your thighs. The shoulder strap should nestle snuggly between your breasts and along the side of your belly during pregnancy.

The lap and shoulder belts should both fit snuggly. While you don't have to fit them tightly, the belts won't do you a lick of good if you place them too loosely. You should also check the height of your shoulder belt when possible to ensure a comfortable but beneficial fit.

Safety Tips for Car Travel When You’re Pregnant

Learn why you should always wear a seatbelt during pregnancy.

The NHTSA has released a new informational poster for pregnant women. Here are four things you should know if you are pregnant and planning to ride in or drive a vehicle:

  • Wear your seatbelt. Buckle up, with the strap between your breasts and the lap strap across your hips and pelvic bone. Make sure the lap strap sits under your belly, and never slide the chest strap behind your back or under your far arm.

  • Adjust your seat. Throughout your pregnancy, try to slide the seat so that you have about 10 inches or more between your chest and the steering wheel or dashboard. Just be sure you can also safely reach the pedals!

  • Don’t equate airbags with seatbelts—buckle up no matter what. If your vehicle has airbags, you still need to wear a belt, as it is the best protection for you and your unborn child. Belts keep you safely strapped in the car during accidents that could otherwise throw you through the windshield.

  • Keep the airbag turned on. Some women worry that airbags can harm them by slamming against their bellies during a car accident, but the benefit of an airbag outweighs the risk of harm that can be caused by its impact with your body.

Are Air Bags Safe To Use During Pregnancy

Air bags like seat belts are important safety precautions that should be used during pregnancy. Experts suggest that pregnant women keep their air bags turned on during pregnancy for the most part. To protect yourself and your baby you can move your seat back to the farthest position possible and tilt your seat slightly back if possible. This will allow more room between your belly and the dashboard in the unlikely event of an accident.

If you are riding in the passenger seat you should also always use proper restraints including a lap and shoulder belt. If sitting in the back seat of a car a pregnant mother should also fasten her seat belt.

If in the unlikely event you are in an accident it is important that you seek medical assistance immediately. This is the case whether or not you believe you are injured. A competent doctor can evaluate you and your baby to make sure the crash has not affected your baby. Signs that you need prompt medical attention may include pain in the abdomen, bleeding or leaking from the vagina, any type of head trauma or regular contractions that begin any time after the accident.

Improve Your Safety While Pregnant

There are many steps you can take to increase your safety while driving during pregnancy. You should avoid for example talking on the cell phone while pregnant, whether or not you have a hands free set. Studies suggest that talking on the phone while pregnant is more dangerous than driving drunk. In fact several tests show that cell phone users drive much worse than impaired drivers! It isn't holding the cell phone that causes problems, but the distraction of talking to someone while driving.

Remember that driving requires all your attention. This is particularly the case when pregnant, when you may already feel a bit scatterbrained. Avoid searching for items while pregnant or trying to find the perfect radio station while driving. If you need to switch stations, wait for a red light or do so before you start driving. If you have other children that are distracting you, pull over to the side of the road until you solve the problem rather than continue driving under such circumstances. Remember, when driving while pregnant or not, it is vital you take every precaution necessary to ensure your safety and that of your family!

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