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Is it Safe to Fly During Pregnancy?

written by: Dr. Sloan, MD. • edited by: lrohner • updated: 10/31/2010

Is it safe to fly during pregnancy? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among pregnant mothers. Essentially, the ultimate concern from the mothers as well as the doctors is the safety of the expectant mothers and the fetus.

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    Is It Safe to Fly During Pregnancy?

    Air travel involves changing of altitudes throughout the flight and those changes may cause discomfort to some. Flying at different altitudes, especially in a long haul journey, may cause motion sickness, nausea and vomiting, especially for pregnant air travellers who are more susceptible to these conditions. For the most part, travel during the first trimester for most pregnant women is fine except that it may exacerbate the symptoms of morning sickness. Pregnant mothers may be prepared to find that the food served in the flight may not be the best choice and that sitting in an enclosed space may enhance the various smells which in turn may leave her feeling nauseas.

    Because the fetus in the uterus is not stable yet during early pregnancy, it is the period of greatest risk of miscarriage. Expectant mothers with history of recurrent pregnancy loss should think twice before embarking a journey by air.

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    When Can I Fly During Pregnancy

    The most ideal time to fly is during the second trimester, or between 13 and 27 weeks of pregnancy, when the uterus is stable and the risk of miscarriage is less of a concern. Most pregnant mothers feel good during this period of time as many of the unpleasant symptoms related to early pregnancy have ended. That is why this period is also known as the "honeymoon period."

    As the pregnancy progresses, circulation to the lower body may be impaired due to the hyper-coagulate state of the blood. Poor circulation in the legs could lead to blood stagnation and formation of blood clots. Varicose veins refer to dilated and tortuous veins seen at the legs may develop during pregnancy. Moving around the cabin and wearing in-flight stockings can help to reduce the stress on the veins. Do make an attempt to request for bulkhead seat as it offers plenty of room for you to move and stretch your legs.

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    Pregnancy Air Travel Precautions

    Be sure to have a proper medical coverage for both mother and baby before, during and after the flight. For those mothers travelling by air during the third trimester, 28 weeks onwards till term, they should understand there is always a risk of premature labor. Keeping that in mind, it is always good to check with your doctor as well as check the airline on the policy for air travel during pregnancy.

    Women with complicated pregnancies involving hypertensive disease, severe nausea, twins, placenta previa, pre-term labor and other pregnancy-related complications should refrain from flying.

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    References

    1) Virtual Obstetric-Gynae Office –Is it Safe to Fly During Pregnancy?

    2) Is My Pregnancy Normal?, by Dr Chia Patrick, Dr S.Raman

    3) Dos & Don’ts of Travelling While Pregnant Reviewed by Louise Chang MD

    4) Does air travel affect pregnancy outcome? By Mala Freeman, Alessandro Ghidini