Risks to Consider When Flying When Pregnant
Women are often concerned about flying when pregnant. It's generally considered safe to fly until you are 36 weeks pregnant. If you are going to fly close to that time, or you tend to carry big, then you should probably get a note from your doctor before your flight. The note would state that you are in good health and that the chances of you having the baby in the next 3 days would be slim. It should also state what your due date is. Aside from delivering on the plane, there are other risks and considerations to take when flying.
Radiation Exposure in Flight
There is a small amount of exposure you'll experience to radiation from the sun and from space when you fly. Planes fly where the atmosphere is thin, creating less protection from radiation. Therefore, the longer or more frequently you fly, and the higher you fly, the more exposure you'll get to cosmic radiation. When you fly at 33,000 feet, the level of radiation exposure is 35 times greater than it is at sea level. While this sounds like a lot, this level is still perfectly safe for the occasional flier. The question is only if you are a pilot or flight attendant. There is, however, no scientific evidence that flying adversely affects the fetus due to radiation exposure. It is interesting to note, however, that in Europe, although not in the United States, air crew are classified as radiation workers and they have their exposure levels monitored.
Risk of Thrombosis
When a woman is pregnant, her risk of developing thrombosis is greater. It is not completely clear, however, if flying increases the chances of developing this problem. Flying may be a risk factor for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) because of the lengthy time that most flyers sit. In addition, if you tend to drink less on a flight and be more prone to dehydration, these can also be risk factors for DVT. It is, therefore, very important to move around during the flight, to try to get a bulk seat whenever possible for extra leg room, and to continue drinking during the flight. Pressure stockings can also help to add circulation to the lower limbs for pregnant women during a flight.
Flying Pregnant with Twins
If you are pregnant with twins, you do need to take this into consideration when flying. Your risk of going into labor early is higher, and you certainly don't want to risk having these babies in the air! The cut off point for flying if you're pregnant with multiples should be much earlier than 36 weeks. This is a decision that you need to make with your doctor and you should certainly bring a doctor's note along if you do intend to fly.
In general, flying pregnant is not a major problem. One study about flying while pregnant evaluated the medical records and work activities of 1751 pregnant flight attendants between 1973 and 1994. This study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It did not find higher rates of pregnancy complications for flight attendants than for the general public. It did find that flight attendants who worked during the early stages of pregnancy were slightly more likely to miscarry than were their peers who took off time during this stage. It was not clear, however, whether this was directly due to flying or due to other factors.
Looking at the facts, you can see that it's safe to fly when pregnant, and certainly well worth having some fun before that baby comes and changes everything! Enjoy it while you can and make some great memories.