Some pregnant women do not wear seat belts due to fear that the belt itself could injure the baby in a car crash.  Urban myth or legitimate concern?

It is well established that seat belts save lives but if some pregnant women do not wear seat belts out of fear that the belt could harm the baby in a car crash, are they really helping or just placing themselves in danger?    It's difficult to fault mothers for erring on the side of caution when it comes to unborn babies but is it actually the case that the seat belt can put the baby at risk?

A group of researchers led by Dr. Stacie Zelman from Wake Forest University examined a national database of over two million injured patients and found over 2,400 pregnant women injured in car crashes. Women wearing a seat belt, having an air bag, or both were significantly less likely to have pregnancy-related complications than women with neither a seat belt nor an air bag. The combination of a seat belt and air bag resulted in the lowest rate of complications.

The researchers conclude that pregnant women should use seat belts with confidence that they will help, not hurt, the baby in a crash, by adding more protection to the pregnant woman and adding no risk to unborn kids.

The presentation, entitled "Automobile Safety Restraints Do Not Increase The Chance of Fetal Complications Following Motor Vehicle Collision," was given by Dr. Stacie Zelman in the Injury Prevention forum at the 2009 SAEM Annual Meeting at the Sheraton New Orleans on Saturday, May 16 at 4:30 PM. Abstracts are published in Vol. 16, No. 4, Supplement 1, April 2009 of Academic Emergency Medicine, the official journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.