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Study Shows Car Seat Belt Good For Both Pregnant Mother and Fetus

July 29, 2003 — Pregnant women who don’t wear a car seat belt for fear of injuring the fetus during a crash or because it’s inconvenient should think again.

A study conducted by University of Utah and University of Pittsburgh researchers shows that pregnant women without a seat belt during a car crash were about three times more likely to experience fetal death and twice as likely to have excessive maternal bleeding than were belted pregnant women. Those without a seat belt during a car crash were also more likely than their belted counterparts to deliver low birth-weight babies. Research findings are published in the August issue of the Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“There’s an erroneous perception among some women that wearing a seat belt is harmful to the fetus during a crash,” said Lisa K. Hyde, principal investigator and a researcher at the Intermountain Injury Control Research Center, a part of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. “There are also many women who are simply not sure whether they should wear car seat belts or not during pregnancy.”

The study’s findings reaffirm the recommendation of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) that pregnant women should wear seat belts throughout pregnancy.

Previous studies have shown that some pregnant women don’t wear seat belts because of the following reasons: forgetting, discomfort and inconvenience, no seat belt available, and fear that the seat belt might cause injury to the baby or the mother.

Hyde said her team’s study is the first to link statewide data to compare belted and unbelted pregnant women and to study the effects of a seat belt to the fetus after a crash.

The study used data from Utah, such as police reports of motor vehicle crashes involving pregnant women and birth and fetal death certificates, for the years 1992-1999. A pool of 8,938 women involved in car crashes during the period was studied.

“Wearing a seat belt during pregnancy is a useful and effective intervention for reducing the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes,” according to the study. It recommended promoting public awareness and education about seat belt use among pregnant women and more aggressive seat belt enforcement strategies.

The study was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to Hyde, the other investigators in the study are: Lawrence J. Cook, M. Stat; Lenora M. Olson, M.A.; J. Michael Dean, M.D., MBA, from the U School of Medicine’s Intermountain Injury Control Research Center; and Harold B. Weiss, MPH, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurosurgery’s Center for Injury Research and Control.