Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Seat Belt Use During Pregnancy


Am Fam Physician. 2004 Oct 1;70(7):1313.

Should I wear a seat belt while I’m pregnant?

Yes, you should always wear a seat belt. Wearing your seat belt protects you and your baby. The most common reason a fetus dies after a car crash is because the mother dies.

Be sure to wear your seat belt correctly. The lap and shoulder belts keep you from being thrown from the car. The shoulder strap also keeps the pressure of your body off of the baby after a crash. You should wear a seat belt no matter where you sit in the car.

How should I wear my seat belt?

The seat belt should be a three-point restraint (that means it should have a lap strap and a shoulder strap). The lap strap should go under your belly, across your hips, and as high as possible on your thighs. The shoulder strap should go between your breasts, and off to the side of your belly. Seat belt straps should never go directly across your belly. The seat belt should fit snugly.

What should I do if I am in a car crash?

You should get treatment right away, even if you think you are not hurt. Most injuries to the baby happen within a few hours after a crash. Your doctor needs to check you and your baby as soon as possible after a crash, especially if you are more than six months pregnant.

What about air bags?

Most experts agree that air bags are safe and can protect the mother from head injury. The air bags in your car should not be turned off because you are pregnant. Airbags are not a substitute for a seat belt, so always wear your seat belt even if your car has air bags.

Where should I sit if I’m a passenger?

If you are not driving, you should sit in the back seat. Injuries from car crashes tend to be less serious to people who are sitting in the back seat. It is still important to wear a seat belt, though. Where a mother sits has not been shown to affect the safety of an unborn baby in a crash.

What danger signs should I watch for after a car crash?

Call your doctor right away if you have pain in your belly, blood or fluid leaking from your vagina, or contractions.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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