Flying While Pregnant
Many women are unsure about flying during pregnancy. Is it safe to fly while pregnant? Is there anything up in those skies that can harm your baby? What happens if you go into labor? Rest assured that flying while you are pregnant is almost always completely safe, so there’s no need to change your travel plans.
Who Can Fly
There are some restrictions as to just who should and should not travel the skies when they are pregnant. Generally, women who are having a healthy, normal pregnancy are free to come and go as they please. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women don’t fly after their 36th week of pregnancy.
Airlines have their own flight restrictions for pregnant women, which can vary according to whether you are flying domestically or internationally and which airline you will be flying. Some airlines won’t allow you to travel for 30 days before your due date, while others won’t let you on board if your due date is less than seven days away. Be sure to ask the ticket agent when you book your ticket just what their restrictions are since they probably won’t mention it otherwise. And don’t forget to consider how close your due date will be when you come back.
Women who are having any sort of complications associated with their pregnancy or who are considered to be ‘high risk’ should not travel. This includes women with poorly controlled diabetes, sickle cell disease, placental abnormalities, hypertension or those at risk for premature labor.
Whether you are in your first trimester or third trimester, it is always a good idea to discuss your travel plans with your health care provider before you leave. It may also be a good idea to obtain a doctor’s note saying that it is okay for you to travel, especially if you are in your third trimester. Not every airline requires a doctor’s note to let you on the plane, but sometimes it’s easier to take the extra precaution in order to avoid any possible hassles when you board.
Flying in Early Stages of Pregnancy
Flying in early pregnancy is safe. However, during the first trimester, the main concern over flying is making your pregnancy symptoms, like morning sickness, worse. (You may want to make sure you have a extra few sick bags nearby, just in case.) And a mildly stuffed-up nose on the ground could become much worse once you’re in the air.
Flying and Pregnancy: Your Circulation
Many women report that their second trimester is when they feel the most comfortable. Your morning sickness is usually gone, your risk of miscarriage is significantly lowered and you have the least chance of going into preterm labor at this point. It’s no wonder many women take advantage of this newfound comfort and take to the skies. However, there are still some issues you need to be concerned about; namely your circulation.
Pregnancy can cause circulation problems in any women. It is also well known that when you are flying, you have an increased chance of developing a blood clot. Put the two together and there could be some problems. Pregnant or not, here are some tips to help keep your blood flowing:
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing
- Invest in some compression stockings; these will help keep the blood moving from your ankles to your heart and lungs
- Avoid crossing your legs
- Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated
One of the most helpful things that you can do to keep your blood flowing is to move around. Go for a walk in the aisle every hour. Every half hour, flex your feet, rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes. These are simple little stretches you can do right in your seat without bothering the person next to you. And if there is no one next to you, then put your feet up and enjoy the extra space!
Fasten Your Seat Belt!
As your belly grows, getting comfortable becomes more and more difficult. Unfortunately, airline seating is not exactly known as being the ultimate in comfort. When you check-in, don’t hesitate to ask for a seat with a bit more room. Aisle seats usually have the most space while the area in the middle of the plane usually provides the smoothest ride. Emergency row seats are also known for providing extra leg space. However, being seated by the door is not an option for pregnant women.
This is because people seated in this area need to be able to lift the heavy plane door, which can weigh up to 70lbs, as well as help the flight crew during an emergency without causing harm to themselves. For this reason, the Federal Aviation Administration has specified that pregnant women should not be seated in this area.
The ACOG recommends that pregnant women keep their seatbelt on during the entire flight since you never know when turbulence will strike and there is a risk of trauma when it does happen.
Don’t Be Shy
Flying in the third trimester is still safe so long as your due date is not too close. However, the possibility of going into premature labor is something to consider before you take off. Before you leave, double check that your health insurance is up-to-date and that your baby will be covered if she decides to make an early appearance. You should also ask your doctor or midwife for a medical contact in your destination and carry a copy of your medical records with you.
If you do find yourself experiencing regular, painful contractions while en route, then speak up! Notify the cabin crew immediately that you’re having contractions and could be going into labor. You will certainly not be the first women to have ever delivered a baby high above the ground. While the crew is likely trained for just such an emergency, or at least to help with childbirth, your flight will probably make an emergency landing at the closest airport to make sure you get the medical attention you need.
One of the biggest concerns for many pregnant women is whether or not it is safe to walk through the airport metal detectors. The answer is ABSOLUTELY! These machines are not x-ray machines and will cause absolutely no harm to you or your baby.
Safety issues associated with cabin pressure concern some women. All commercial flights these days have pressured cabins that are set to the equivalent of 5,000 to 8,000 feet, or about the altitude of Denver. Obviously, if you come from a low altitude area, the change in air will affect you somewhat. Your heart rate and blood pressure will increase to help your body with its oxygen intake.
For most pregnant women, this is not a problem. However, if you have any sort of cardiovascular problems, it is strongly recommended that you avoid flying. All pregnant women, though, should steer clear of flying in an unpressurized cabin.
Now, pack your bags and enjoy one more vacation before baby comes along!
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