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 Should pregnant women use safety belts and airbags?

Although there have been individual reports of injuries to the fetus following deployment of airbags after motor vehicle accidents these injuries may have been due to driver impact with the steering wheel, or the mother's contact with the door armrest [1,2].

Reports including larger numbers of pregnant women who were involved in motor vehicle accidents and computer modeling demonstrate that properly positioned safety belts and airbags offer the best overall protection to both the mother and fetus during pregnancy [3-5].


  • To properly position safety belts the lap belt portion of the seat belt should be placed under the pregnant abdomen and over the pubic bone.
  • The shoulder harness should be positioned off to the side of the uterus and between the breasts. Placement of the seat belt directly over the abdomen may increase the risk of fetal injury during a high speed collision.
  • Airbags should not be disabled during pregnancy[6,7].
  • Women should avoid driving during late pregnancy, since they may not be able to get their abdomens far enough away from the steering wheel [8].
  • Pregnant women involved in crashes should seek treatment after a motor vehicle accident regardless of the severity of maternal injury.

    1.Schultze. PM et al., Placental abruption and fetal death with airbag deployment in a motor vehicle accident.Obstet Gynecol. 1998;92:719. MEDLINE
    2. Karimi P. ,et al. Extensive brain injury in a premature infant following a relatively minor maternal motor vehicle accident with airbag deployment.J Perinatol. 2004;24:454-7. MEDLINE
    3.Cynthia J. Sims et al. Airbag deployment following a motor vehicle accident in pregnancy.Obstet Gynecol.1996;88:726. MEDLINE
    4.Klinich KD et al. Investigations of crashes involving pregnant occupants. Annu Proc Assoc Adv Automot Med. 2000;44:37-55. MEDLINE
    5.Moorcroft DM, et al., Computational model of the pregnant occupant: predicting the risk of injury in automobile crashes.Am J Obstet Gynecol.2003 Aug;189(2):540-4. MEDLINE
    6. ACOG educational bulletin. Obstetric aspects of trauma management. Number 251, September 1998 (replaces Number 151, January 1991, and Number 161, November 1991). Int J Gynecol Obstet 1999;64:87-94. MEDLINE
    7. Pearlman MD, Klinich KD, Schneider LW, Rupp J, Moss S, Ashton-Miller J. A comprehensive program to improve safety for pregnant women and fetuses in motor vehicle crashes: a preliminary report. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2000;182:1554-64. MEDLINE
    8.The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Q&A: AIRBAGS as of July 2005 http://www.hwysafety.org/research/qanda/airbags.html.Accessed 9/7/05 

    Created: 9/7/2005


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