Pregnant women should use seatbelt

Proper seatbelt use by pregnant women would save 200 fetuses a year, University of Michigan study finds. This new study could have a profound effect on fetal deaths and injuries caused by car crashes.

The research debunks a long-standing myth that wearing a seatbelt is not safe for pregnant women, says Pearlman, the S. Jan Behrman Professor of Reproductive Medicine.

“Some women are very concerned because they think the lap belt will injure their unborn baby in a crash. This study shows that the opposite is true, that seatbelts clearly protect the fetus, in large part because the fetus protects the mother,” he notes. The study appears in the new issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Pearlman teamed up with researchers from the U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), the Department of Emergency Medicine and the College of Engineering to study data from 57 automobile crashes involving pregnant women. The study, the first of its kind, performed detailed crash analysis, including accurate estimates of the crash severity and direction, maternal restraint usage and pregnancy outcome.

The study states that:

– About 6 to 7 percent of women who are pregnant are involved in a car crash during their pregnancy. That translates to about 170,000 car crashes a year involving pregnant women.

– Pregnant women in car crashes resulting in serious fetal adverse outcomes are unbelted 62 percent of the time.

– There are more fetal deaths due to car crashes than there are deaths of children due to bicycle accidents, or death of children due to car accidents in the first year of life.

– The proper use of seatbelts by all pregnant women would prevent approximately 84 percent of serious adverse fetal outcomes (disabling injuries and deaths) due to car accidents.

– If all women simply wore their seatbelts during pregnancy, ideally with the lap belt positioned under the pregnant abdomen, approximately 200 fetal lives would be saved. (This doesn’t include the prevention of an unknown number of pre-term births and placental abruptions that result in brain injury and other long-term disabilities.)

“It’s very clear, based on this study, that pregnant women should buckle up every single time they’re in a vehicle,” says senior author Mark D. Pearlman, M.D., vice-chair in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the U-M Health System.

Source: University of Michigan Health System, USA

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