Flying when pregnant

Is it safe to fly while pregnant?

When booking your airline tickets, be sure to inform your booking agent how far pregnant you will be on your return. Also, most airlines will require a doctor’s note if you are planning to fly 28 weeks and onwards into your pregnancy.

Whether you should travel by air depends on how far along your pregnancy is. If you are in the first trimester then you will be alright to travel. However, after 7-8 weeks you will be affected by morning sickness and fatigue and so may not feel as though you should fly. To try and prevent this ask your General Practitioner for safe anti-nausea medication. The second trimester of pregnancy is considered the safest in which to travel. All pregnant ladies are more susceptible to deep vein thrombosis and blood clots when flying long distances. There are a few steps that can be taken to help try and prevent this. Booking an aisle seat will allow you to take constant walks up and down the aisles without inconveniencing other flyers this will get the blood circulating and help to prevent blood clots. Some doctors recommend wearing pantyhose as these support stockings have been known to increase circulation and prevent blood clots. A common recommendation is to drink a lot of water before a flight as being hydrated is also know to prevent blood clots. If you carry an empty water bottle and fill it up after security this means you won’t have to spend money on a bottle after. Another recommendation is to not eat gassy foods such as beans and lentils and drinks such as milk and coke as flying can cause this gas to expand and become quite uncomfortable.

Whilst flying the standard cabin pressure should contain the right concentration of oxygen, this should be adequate to meet the demands of both mother and foetus. However, in cases where the mother or foetus are distressed, aeromedical evacuation staff will provide oxygen just to be safe. You should not be afraid to ask for this if you feel it is required.

Before you embark on your flight a few calf exercises can help you circulation, such as, rolling from your heels to you tip toes. When sat down on the plane make sure the belt is fastened under your bump and not above as this will be a more comfortable and safe position. It is good to plan ahead and make sure you know where the nearest hospital is in relation to where you are staying and make sure you have the appropriate medical insurance.

One study involved a sample group of 222 pregnant women and concluded that there was no correlation between adverse outcomes, hours spent travelling by air or the gestational age at the time of travel.  Importantly, this study showed no correlation between gestational age at delivery, neonatal birth weight, rates of vaginal bleeding and preterm delivery (less than 37 weeks).

Whilst this study shows the effects of flying whilst pregnant to be negligible attention should be drawn to a study conducted on Finnish Flight attendants. The flight attendants who worked during early pregnancy had a slightly elevated risk of spontaneous abortion when compared to those who did not work whilst pregnant. This is a single study and so suggests that for these to be conclusive, more studies must be done.  

In conclusion, air travel for a pregnant traveller is generally considered safe, many airlines have guidelines highlighting that it is safe to travel domestically up until 36 weeks of gestation and international travel until 35 weeks gestation.

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