While some of us may be wondering why we should travel at all during pregnancy, we should also remember that there are times when certain occasions or situations demand our physical presence. It may be a family celebration, a business trip, a funeral or maybe even a small holiday before welcoming the newest member of the family. Regardless of what the reason may be, medical experts believe that hopping on (not literally) a plane and taking a trip does not necessarily invite an exceptional amount of risk to you or your baby. However, it is of vital importance that you are aware of the state of your pregnancy, and you follow some safe practices and measures to keep yourself, as well as the baby, safe till you get back home.
Can I fly while pregnant?
The short answer is ‘Yes.’ There is, however, a longer answer that is crucial to know, which will require some more elaboration. Just because you are allowed to get on an airplane does not mean you need not take precautions or travel as if you were not pregnant at all.
The general rule that is universally accepted by most experts when it comes to pregnancy and flying is that expecting mothers are advised to refrain from flying if they are past their 36th week of pregnancy. For anyone who might wonder why this is suggested, the reason is precisely what you think it is. You would not want to go into labor mid-flight because of all the risks and inconvenience such an ordeal would put you through. Apart from this, an otherwise healthy pregnancy is usually not a reason menacing enough to altogether avoid the runway.
Although pregnancy and flying are not the most threatening of combinations, you do expose yourself to specific risks when you choose to be confined in an airplane for a considerable duration of time. As a responsible parent, you cannot ignore these risks nor is it advisable to forego the measures you can take to make sure these risks do not become real problems.
Risks of flying when pregnant
- The first risk is the apparent fear that comes with having a pregnant woman onboard an airplane. This is the biggest reason why, friends and family may discourage you from traveling, but no one will be more adamant than the airline staff (mostly for legal consequences). However, if you do travel while you are nearing your due date (not recommended), you run the risk of going into labor before the plane lands.
- Pregnant women who fly for long hours are also liable to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVP), a condition where your blood can start clotting inside your veins. It usually occurs in the legs. Pregnant passengers who have been in a sitting position for too long can develop DVP if they do not take precautions.
- Another issue that is involved in pregnant women flying is the exposure to specific radiation during security checks as well as in-flight radiation. While this mild form of radiation is often considered negligible for ordinary passengers, an expecting mother should know that this tiny risk is also something to be aware of.
- Aerotoxic syndrome is a concern that has developed in recent years. It refers to the long-term effects of spending long hours inside the pressurized cabin of an airplane and its supposedly unhealthy air. While it is not a huge area of concern for everyone, you can never be too careful when it comes to your unborn baby. If you are pregnant and a frequent flyer, it may be wise to be vigilant of this potential threat too.
While these risks all seem like legitimate possibilities, a few precautions on your part can ensure that they do not rise to become any real problems while flying.
Tips for Pregnant women while flying
- As we are already aware, it is best not to fly if you are in your 37th week of pregnancy. Try to schedule your flight travels within the second trimester. Consult with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to be on an airplane. This removes the possibility of having to undergo childbirth on a plane where everything poses a risk.
- Always carry your maternity notes (pregnancy records) and a letter of approval from your doctor or obstetrician indicating that it is safe for you to travel. This will help deal with authorities who might hesitate in allowing you on board. If you do face complications mid-flight, your medical records will assist by providing relevant information which will lead to appropriate treatment.
- Come prepared with provisions of your own. Remember you are eating for two, and sometimes in-flight food or beverages may not be the most suitable things to consume. Stay hydrated and do not hesitate to go for bathroom breaks.
- Remember to keep your luggage light. Heavy lifting in cramped spaces will not help in making it a pleasant flight for you or the baby.
- Occasionally take a break from sitting. Try to get up and stretch your legs, take a walk whenever you are allowed to do so inside the plane. It will help in maintaining proper blood circulation as opposed to being hunched over in a seat for hours.
- Compression socks have become a universal recommendation, and for a good reason. They help in preventing your legs from swelling or getting cramps from sitting in a confined space for too long. Compression socks, along with walking exercises, are an excellent way to avoid developing any Deep Vein Syndrome(s).
- As far as possible, try to get yourself a seat in the aisle. It will be easier for you to catch quick bathroom breaks as well as occasionally stretch your legs out in the aisle.
- Finally, do not hesitate to ask for help when you need it. It may mean requesting an extra bottle of water from an attendant or requesting a fellow passenger for assistance with baggage. Travelling can cause stress too, and any support you can get from others will make it more convenient.
Pregnancy and flying, at first glance, may seem like two things that should never happen together. However, being prepared with these solutions will prevent your flight from becoming an ordeal. Remember always to consult your doctor before you make not just flight plans, but any other traveling that may exert you more than usual. If you stay vigilant of these potential risks and keep yourself ready with the corresponding solutions, you will find that the flight can turn out to be a pleasant experience for both you and the baby.