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Flying While Pregnant

Flying While Pregnant

Flying While Pregnant

If you’re pregnant, getting on an airplane might seem like a bad idea. From crowded seats to potential radiation exposure, you could find many reasons not to fly. However, flying while pregnant is generally a low-risk activity, especially if you’re in a healthy condition. Plus, if you know how to prepare for plane travel when you’re expecting, you can make your trip more safe, pleasant and comfortable.

Get Your Doctor’s Advice

Generally, flying while pregnant is safe if you have a health pregnancy. However, you should always consult your health care provider before booking your flight. Your doctor of midwife might advise you not to fly if you’re at risk for premature labor or if you have a high-risk pregnancy in general. Additionally, your doctor will probably recommend that you don’t fly after the 36th week of your pregnancy.

Radiation: Is It a Risk?

Some pregnant women worry about being exposed to radiation during airplane flights. Fortunately, the amount of radiation that air passengers are exposed to on a single flight is too small to be a health concern. But, if you fly frequently for business or other reasons, your doctor might advise you to fly less during your pregnancy.

Some pregnant women have had concerns about the “backscatter” machines at airport security checkpoints. These machines use X-rays to produce an image of the body, revealing any hidden items. The Transportation Security Administration has claimed that the amount of radiation produced by the backscatter machines is insignificant, but after health and privacy experts raised concerns about these machines, the backscatter units were removed and replaced by “millimeter wave units.” These units, unlike the backscatter machines, use radio waves instead of X-rays. Radio waves, according to health experts, are much less of a safety concern than X-rays. However, you can always opt out of going through the millimeter wave unit and request a manual body search instead. Metal detectors, also seen at airport checkpoints, do not use X-rays.

Other Risks of Flying While Pregnant

All air travelers face a small risk of getting blood clots during long flights. You can reduce this risk by wearing compression socks, getting up regularly to walk up and down the airplane’s aisle, and doing leg exercises in your seat in order to encourage circulation. Ask your health care provider to give you information about which specific leg exercises to do to enhance circulation.

Additionally, some women are concerned about flying while pregnant because of the decreased levels of oxygen in the airplane’s cabin, but this shouldn’t pose a threat to you if you have a healthy pregnancy. However, if you’re concerned about this or any other risk of flying while pregnant, you should talk to your doctor or midwife.

When to Fly

After your health care provider has cleared you for airplane travel, the next thing to consider is when to fly. Many health care experts recommend the second trimester of pregnancy as the best time to fly. The second trimester has the lowest risk of premature labor or miscarriage, and it’s also a more comfortable time for many pregnant women to fly because they tend to experience less morning sickness than in the first trimester.

Know Your Airline’s Policies on Flying While Pregnant

Before buying your plane ticket, check to see if your airline has any rules regarding flying while pregnant. The policies of individual airlines can vary widely. Some airlines have no restrictions for pregnant women, and other airlines require a doctor’s certificate if you’re planning to fly within a month of your due date. Many international airlines restrict travel after the eighth month of pregnancy.

Be a Savvy International Traveler

If you’re planning to travel abroad, do some research about the country that you’ll be visiting. If you’re going to a country that requires travelers to obtain vaccinations, talk with your health care provider to ascertain if these vaccinations are safe for pregnant women. Also, your doctor or midwife should be able to refer you to a reputable health care provider in the country that you’ll be visiting in case you need medical attention there.

Pack Wisely

After researching your destination and buying your plane ticket, it’s time to think about packing your bags. Obviously, what you bring on your trip will be determined largely by where you’re going and what you’ll be doing there. But, if you’re flying while pregnant, you need to consider another important factor: the weight of your luggage. In other words, don’t pack a heavy carry-on bag. Your doctor will tell you how much weight you can safely lift.

Dress For Comfort

For your flight, wear loose-fitting clothing and comfortable shoes. Bring layers that you can easily slip on and off if you get hot or cold. An extra jacket or sweater can double as a blanket or pillow on the plane.

Bring Plenty of Food

If you’re on a domestic flight, chances are that you won’t be fed much, so bring some snacks with you. Even if you’re on a long-distance or international flight, there might be a limited choice of meals, so if you have any special dietary restrictions, you should come prepared with your own food.

Stay Hydrated

The airplane cabin will have a very low humidity level, so it’s important to drink plenty of water during your flight. Unfortunately, the Transportation Security Administration bans airplane travelers from bringing liquids through security checkpoints, so you won’t be able to pack a water bottle from home, but you can buy water at the airport. Plus, most flights longer than an hour offer a beverage service, so you’ll be able to get water on the plane.

Take Extra Steps for Comfort

Some women experience lower back pain during pregnancy, and sitting upright for long periods in an airplane seat might exacerbate this. Bringing a small pillow for your lower back can alleviate this discomfort. Taking periodic walks up and down the aisle of the plane, if possible, could also help. Hold onto seat backs for support when walking down the aisle. Your center of gravity shifts when pregnant, so even the slightest amount of turbulence can throw you off balance. When in your seat, fasten your seat belt below your stomach.

Airplane travel while pregnant might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be; traveling when pregnant, like traveling at any other time, can be fun and enriching. By getting informed and preparing wisely, you’ll be ready to have a relaxing and enjoyable flight.

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