Flying during Pregnancy

Reviewed on : 03 September 2016

While leisure travel may be one of the best ways to revitalize, one may find their options restricted under certain conditions like pregnancy. Endless questions, ranging from safety to possible complications, are usually raised when it comes to the travelling options of a would-be mother.

While experts consider it absolutely normal to take a flight during pregnancy, specific airline policies in this regard may vary, especially towards the end of your pregnancy. Also, while a normal and healthy pregnancy should not face any restrictions, it is always recommended to consult one’s gynecologist before one plans to take a flight.

The right time to travel

Since during the first 12 to 15 weeks of pregnancy, a would-be mother experiences higher levels of exhaustion and nausea, she may herself not prefer to fly. The second trimester, i.e., between 14 to 27 weeks, may however be the perfect time to consider to fly. At this time, the energy level of a would-be mom is highest and the chances of a miscarriage are very low. Air travel is thus considered usually safe before the 36th week of pregnancy, but only for those who have a healthy pregnancy. If one is facing certain complications with one’s pregnancy, then a healthcare expert will usually caution against any air travel.

It is generally recommended not to fly after 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Long Duration Flight

If one is flying for more than five hours, then there may be an increased risk of blood clots. Intake of lots of fluids can help decrease the risk of clotting. Another option might be to keep the legs raised whenever possible. Wearing a perfect fitted compression stocking can also reduce swelling and thereby clotting risk in the legs. These stockings are readily available over the counter in most pharmacy stores.

Before you plan to travel

As discussed, some airlines don’t allow pregnant women to undertake air travel. One should carefully check the airline policies before booking the tickets. Other airlines may require a medical clearance to verify that one’s delivery date is not less than four weeks away from the date of travel. Some airlines may even demand a letter from the doctor that verifies for the pregnant passenger’s :

  • Condition of health
  • State of normal pregnancy
  • Due date of the delivery

When you fly

A relaxed and a comfortable flight is what a mom-to-be requires. Here are some tips that one can follow for a stress free and pleasant journey:

  • Remember to keep yourself well hydrated by consuming a lot of water.
  • Loose and comfortable clothes are advisable.
  • Calf exercises, to keep the blood circulating in the legs, are recommended during the air travel. Many airlines also provide Information about these exercises in the flight.
  • Avoid sitting for a long duration. If possible, walk around the airplane.
  • Fasten the seat belt below your abdomen for better comfort.
  • Before boarding the flight, avoid gassy drinks and food items.
  • In case urgent medical attention is required, then do not hesitate to ask for it.

Radiation exposure

Experts believe that the radiation exposure of mother-to-be when flying at high altitudes is not a matter of concern. Still, if one is a frequent traveler, then consulting a health expert is strongly advised.

Is walking through airport screening machines safe?

The standard metal detector scanners used at most modern airports use a low-frequency electromagnetic field. Hence, it is perfectly safe to walk through such screening machines. The low-levels of electromagnetic waves from these metal-detectors make them harmless for everyone including pregnant women.

However, in some airports backscatter X-ray systems are used for passenger screening. They are somewhat similar to the scanners which are used to scan the luggage. These system can spot any hidden items and see through the clothing but still do not harm the skin or one’s bump. However, if one still has concerns then, one can always ask for a physical pat-down instead of the x-ray scanning procedure.

Impact of cabin pressure and oxygen on the foetus

Air travel for a pregnant woman also raises questions about the impact of the cabin pressure on the fetus. If one is flying in a commercial airplane, then the chances of the cabin pressure impacting the unborn are close to zero, provided the pregnancy is confirmed as healthy by the doctor.

The oxygen level in the plane is also important for the would-be mothers as well as their unborn. So while this again should not be an issue in regular commercial flights where the oxygen level is carefully regulated, flying in an unpressurized airplane, is not recommended, especially during the later stages of a pregnancy, as the reduced oxygen at high altitudes may harm the baby.

Some more tips

Pregnant women flying should demand an aisle seat as one is likely to use the washroom more frequently. Some airlines also extend the courtesy of providing seats with more legroom to pregnant women, if they request for the same.

The mother and the baby’s health are of utmost importance during a pregnancy. It is imperative to get one’s health evaluation done from a doctor before undertaking air travel. One must also remember to carry one’s complete medical records on the flight if in case they are required in case of an emergency.

Before a mother-to-be decides to take a flight she should ensure that she has gone through her own check-list properly.

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