Flying While Pregnant

Women are often wondering if it is safe to go flying while pregnant. Doctors advise that women who are undergoing a healthy pregnancy can travel safely by air anytime they need it. However, it is best to discuss your plans with the doctor or your midwife before making any flight reservations. High-risk pregnancy may be a contraindication for travel and you may be advised to stay home or limit your activities throughout the duration. This article will share with you the best time to fly during pregnancy as well as how to prepare before flight and what to consider during the flight.

When Is the Best Time to Fly While Pregnant

It is usually more comfortable to fly during the second trimester of pregnancy (after the 14th week and before the 27th week) when the early signs of pregnancy such as morning sickness are gone. You are also less likely to suffer from a miscarriage but are more likely to have enough energy to enjoy traveling. Most doctors do not recommend flying after the 36th week of pregnancy.

How to Prepare Before Your Travel

It is important to plan your trip with your healthcare provider who will make a referral to a midwife or obstetrician of your destination just in case medical attention is needed during your trip.

1. Bring Your Prenatal Records

Obtain a copy of your prenatal records if you are traveling after the 2nd or 3rd trimester and bring these with you. These charts will contain important information such as your age, when you had your last menstruation, your medical history and previous pregnancies. These will also include your records of prenatal visits, your estimated due date for delivery and pertinent laboratory tests.

2. Consider These Health Conditions

Ask your doctor about medical problem you might have such as:

  • vaginal spotting
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • previous history of early delivery

3. Check Airline Policies and Choose Aisle Seat

Depending on the airline policies and your destination, guidelines may vary for flying while pregnant. It is therefore best to check on these before booking a flight and traveling.Request for a comfortable seat with more available leg space, preferably near the aisle.

Is It Safe to Go Through Security Check?

Flight passengers are usually required to undergo security checks in most airports. These security checks include undergoing metal detectors, x-ray machines for luggage, and scanning machines for the body. While metal detectors use low-frequency electromagnetic fields that are considered safe even for pregnant women and children, security checks for luggage and body scans use x-rays at low levels. Your body is not exposed to radiation while your luggage goes into the x-ray machine, but you may be exposed at some level when you undergo body scanning with a "backscatter" machine. Its safety for pregnant passengers has been questioned by medical experts who wonder if these machines have been tested adequately. If you are concerned about the safety of these machines, ask the security personnel for a manual search or pat down instead.

How to Stay Comfortable During the Flight

1. Stretch

To stay comfortable during your flight, request for a seat with a wide legroom, preferably near the aisle so you can easily stretch and get up to use the bathroom. Avoid leg cramps and swelling in the legs and feet by taking off the shoes and elevating your legs on the foot rest in front of you. Stretch and stroll down the aisle every hour during long trips. While seated, wiggle the toes and rotate the ankles. Stretch the calf muscles by extending the leg then flexing the foot. These exercises will also prevent blood clotting and varicose vein formation.

2. Wear Properly

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. It is advisable to wear separates instead of overalls or jumpsuits to make using the bathroom easier. To cope with temperature changes, layer clothes and use those with few fasteners or buttons. Bring along some thick socks or slippers if you are going to take your shoes off. Use shoes with adjustable straps or laces to allow for expansion if your feet swell. Wear maternity support stockings which compress the veins to prevent swelling and varicose veins.

3. More Tips

  • Fasten your seat belt under the abdomen.
  • Drink adequate amounts of fluids to prevent dehydration due to low humidity.
  • Avoid eating reheated meals during the flight. Pack your own snacks or meal replacements to take during the flight.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks, which can increase the frequency of your visits to the bathroom during the flight.
  • It is advisable to reserve a seat near the bathroom because pregnant women usually need to go frequently. Be careful and find out if your enlarged abdomen can fit in the small bathroom before the plane takes off.

Watch these videos for more tips:


What Are the Risks of Flying While Pregnant?

Flying while pregnant can increase your risk of developing blood clots (or thrombosis) and varicose veins. Wear support stockings when flying to keep your blood flowing and to relieve swelling. It is best to put on the stockings in the morning before getting out of bed and keeping them on the whole day.

It is believed that one may be exposed to atmospheric radiation while flying, which can increase one's risk of suffering from a miscarriage or developing fetal abnormalities. Although pregnant flight personnel and business travelers have a slightly higher risk, women who fly only a few times may have negligible risks.


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