Flying When Pregnant: Considerations
Now that you found out you are carrying a baby, is it safe to fly? Yes – for most women, flying while pregnant is completely safe. As long as you follow some simple rules and your obstetrician agrees there is no problem, in most cases, you can travel without having to worry, as long as you are not close to your due date.
Flying When Pregnant: Is it safe for you?
Air traveling is safe for most pregnant women until up to 36 weeks of gestation, especially if the trip is short and there are no situations in which it is contraindicated to fly. In cases of medical or obstetric complications it is quite dangerous for your body to be exposed to flight conditions. Flying may harm you or your baby with conditions such as hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness), hypertension induced by pregnancy, hard to control blood sugar level in diabetes. If you are carrying twins or you have placenta previa (when the placenta is positioned incorrectly and it covers your cortex), you should consult your doctor before flying as you could put the baby at risk.
- Nausea – The almost continuous changes in altitude during a flight can prove to be uncomfortable for you causing nausea or dizziness. So, do not expect to be as active as usual. If you are eating before and during the flight, make sure you avoid hard digestible foods or the ones that make you feel bloated. Especially if you are in the first trimester of pregnancy and you likely experience morning sickness on a regular basis, try to stay hydrated even if this means you will go to the toilet more often.
- Thrombosis – During the flight the greatest risk for you as a pregnant woman is the occurrence of thrombosis. Thrombosis means that a blood clot is forming in a vein from your legs. This is rare, although serious when it occurs. The risk of getting thrombosis increases during a flight because you sit too long in the same position and the blood is not circulating normally. You can reduce the risk of thrombosis by booking a seat next to the aisle. In this way, you will have more space to stretch your legs and stay hydrated without having to worry you will disturb the other passengers if you go too often to the toilet. Wearing support stockings or socks (not tights, which increase your risk of developing thrush) when you fly will help keep your circulation flowing and relieve swollen veins.
- Radiation - The in-flight radiation coming from the sun and the solar flares are able to penetrate the aircraft’s fuselage. However, most doctors agree that while those who fly hundreds of times per year may have a health risk from increased radiation, the occasional flight by a pregnant woman will not increase the risks of miscarriage or birth defects.
- Premature birth – The possibilities of labor during a flight are highly unlikely but just in case, you must know that air steward training includes how to deliver a baby. So, if you feel sick and you have regular contractions, do not hesitate to tell one of the flight attendants about your situation. It is always better to let everyone who can help know what’s going on.
If you have a healthy pregnancy without complications, you should be able to fly until the eight and sometimes the ninth month of gestation. However, some airlines do not allow pregnant women to fly beyond the seventh month because of the risk of premature birth. Although you won’t be asked your due date when you reservation your ticket, you may be stopped at the gate, when presenting the ticket. Sometimes, if the operators are worried about you having a too advanced pregnancy with a high risk of delivery they can prohibit you from getting on the plane. To avoid these kinds of situations, it is advisable to get a certificate from your obstetrician, doctor or midwife confirming your due date and that you are unlikely to give birth in the next 72 hours. These restrictions vary from an airline to another, so ask when you book the trip. Remember to take the same precautions for your return flight – you’ll be further along so you’ll need your obstetrician to approve both flying dates. Whenever possible, try to avoid flying in small planes as they don’t have pressurized cabins. At high altitudes, there is less oxygen, and your body has to work much harder to give your baby the same amount of oxygen.
3 Tips for an enjoyable trip
- Comfort. Wear clothes that make you feel good, preferably those that are easy to remove when going to the bathroom. Opt for clothing in layers because the temperature from the plane will be adjusted, as the temperature in planes can vary significantly. In case your feet will swell, choose comfortable shoes. If you prepare for longer trips, then take with you a pair of thick socks or slippers so you can change during the flight. Some women choose support stockings when they fly, as they will help protect the blood vessels. Or there are over the knee socks especially designed for flying.
- The seat. Book a seat that facilitates your accommodation. Choose seats located in the middle section of the plane, to avoid feeling the turbulence. Also occupying a seat near the corridor will ensure more space for your feet and quick access to the bathroom. Every 20 to 30 minutes, try to move a little your ankles, legs, neck and arms, either by stretching or rotating. A few minutes of exercise can help you avoid thrombosis or numbness.
- Food and water. Wherever you go or regardless of which transportation you choose, it is always good to have a snack at hand. Prepare a few sandwiches and other healthy snacks and put them in your purse. You never know when you will get hungry. Always consider the possibility of getting stuck in traffic or at the airport. Also, you should always carry a bottle of water or other liquids to keep you hydrated. Remember that thirst is not always the first sign of dehydration. In the plane, the humidity from the air is below normal, so the body tends to dehydrate.
Except in special circumstances, Flying When Pregnant is completely safe. It does not harm you or your baby, so if you have a normal pregnancy, you can peacefully book a flight rather waste hours on the road. If you are late in your pregnancy, check with your obstetrician or midwife and the airline. You don’t want to the airline to refuse your return and be stuck!