Nearly half of women are unaware of the correct way to wear a seat belt while expecting a baby, a survey has indicated.
Commissioned by UK child safety firm Clippasafe, the survey showed that 45.9% of women said “no” when asked whether they knew of the correct way to wear a seat belt while pregnant.
“Major injuries can lead to the waters breaking too early”
It also found that 19.4% of women said they sometimes chose not to wear a seat belt at all during pregnancy, because of the discomfort.
In addition, the research found that 80% of respondents generally considered that wearing a seatbelt was uncomfortable during pregnancy.
The survey on car safety during pregnancy was completed by 500 mothers of various ages, with children aged 15 or younger.
Despite 92% of the women showing an understanding of rear facing baby seat safety and the dangers of airbags, there was obvious confusion over seat belt safety during pregnancy.
Foetal injury or miscarriage are common when pregnant women are involved in even minor vehicle collisions, noted Clippasafe.
“The RCM welcomes the role of this type of research in highlighting the importance of wearing a seatbelt correctly in pregnancy”
The company highlighted that official NHS guidance told women to position the lap portion of the seat belt under their bump.
However, almost half of women were unaware of this advice and did not realise the danger that an incorrectly positioned seat belt poses to an unborn child, it said.
Dr Karen Joash, consultant obstetrician at the Imperial College NHS Trust, said that incorrectly positioned seat belts in pregnancy could lead to a deceleration injury where the strap has contact.
“This is similar to being struck across the bump with extreme force and pressure,” she said. “Major injuries can lead to the waters breaking too early.
“It can also result in placental injuries leading to bleeding and early placental separation, reducing the oxygen supply and, in extreme injuries, unfortunately the death of the unborn baby,” she said.
Combined with separate research undertaken by the University of Toronto in 2014, the survey results painted a worrying picture, warned the Clippasafe.
The Canadian study involved 500,000 pregnancies over a five-year period and showed that female drivers in their second trimester of pregnancy were 42% more likely to be involved in a multi-vehicle collision.
The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggested that the increase could be due to cognitive lapses that occur during pregnancy as well as fatigue, sleep deprivation and nausea.
“The research also shows that getting enough rest in pregnancy is hugely important”
Dr Joash advised expectant mothers to look for ways to make the belt more comfortable and reduce the danger to unborn babies by keeping it in the right place.
Mervi Jokinen, professional advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The RCM welcomes the role of this type of research in highlighting the importance of wearing a seatbelt correctly in pregnancy.
She said the RCM supported advice from NHS choices to wear the seatbelt with the cross strap between their breasts and the lap strap across the pelvis under the bump, not across bump.
Ms Jokinen said: “The research also shows that getting enough rest in pregnancy is hugely important, not just for the woman and baby’s wellbeing, but also for the mother’s safety when driving.
“It is very easy to become over-tired when pregnant and we would encourage women to have regular rest breaks if possible,” she added.