Airbags save lives in car crashes; that's been established. But now researchers report that the lifesaving quality makes no exception for pregnant women and the babies they're carrying.
Because airbag deployment has been shown to injure children and infants, there's been a lingering question whether the devices might also injure unborn children, noted the researchers, from the University of Washington.
But they found "that pregnant occupants of motor vehicles with air bags were not at increased risk for pregnancy complications" such as caesarean delivery, foetal distress and low birth weight, said lead researcher Dr. Melissa A. Schiff, a professor of epidemiology.
A report on the study was published online Dec. 21 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
What the study found
The researchers collected data on 2,207 pregnant women involved in car accidents, comparing the outcome of accidents in cars with and without airbags.
They found no increased risk for injury to the mother or foetus related to whether the car had airbags or didn't.
They did find a 70% increase in preterm labor and a threefold increase in foetal death among those in accidents in which airbags were deployed, compared with cars without airbags. But Schiff said the findings were not statistically significant.
"These findings were inconclusive because we really had too small a sample size," she said. More study will be needed to see if there really is a connection between air bag deployment and preterm labor or foetal death, she said.
No major risk
"Airbags are safe for most outcomes," but the best protection for pregnant women comes from wearing a seat belt, Schiff said.
Dr. Nathan S. Fox, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at New York University School of Medicine, said that "we can't know from a study like this if an airbag deployment may have a minor affect on pregnancy."
But the study shows that there are no major risks with having an airbag deployed, he said.
"Since we know that an air bag deployed in a serious car crash can save your life, it would be unwise to avoid air bags and a theoretical risk of a minor complication," Fox said.
And, he added, "since we know that flying through a windshield is bad for both the mother and the baby, I would encourage people to have airbags." – (Steven Reinberg/HealthDay News, December 2009)