Flying during pregnancy can be an intimidating experience, but with some extra preparation, it doesn't have to be. With a few exceptions, it is safe to fly while pregnant. Learn about airline policies and ways to avoid discomfort. Prepare for pregnancy complications that could arise while you are away from home.
It is safe to fly during pregnancy for most women.
The second trimester (between 14 and 28 weeks) is the best time to fly.
Avoid flying if you are in the last month of pregnancy (over 36 weeks).
Plan ahead and seek medical care early if you experience unusual symptoms while traveling.
Go to the nearest emergency department if you experience signs of labor, water breaking, bleeding, signs of preeclampsia, signs of a blood clot, or difficulty breathing.
Is it safe to fly when you’re pregnant?
Yes, for most women, it is safe to fly during pregnancy. There are times, however, when your doctor may not recommend air travel. You should avoid flying if you are in the last month of pregnancy or have a high-risk pregnancy. If your pregnancy is high-risk, it is more likely you may need emergency care when away from your home base.
When can you fly while pregnant?
The second trimester of pregnancy is the best time to fly. Between 14 and 28 weeks of gestation, you will have the best energy levels, the fewest uncomfortable symptoms, and the lowest risks of running into problems. If you are pregnant with multiple babies, the airline may require a doctor’s note any time you fly during pregnancy.
Can you fly in the first 12 weeks?
Yes. Flying in the first trimester should be generally safe, depending on your overall health and the health of your pregnancy.
A study comparing flight attendants to teachers showed a slightly higher rate of early miscarriage among flight attendants. However, the reason for the increased miscarriage rate was long and stressful hours of work and long-term sleep pattern disruptions. There was a slight increase in miscarriages due to cosmic radiation exposure. However, it would take 100 hours of flight time to reach this level of exposure.
Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester. It is essential to plan how to find medical care if you find yourself in that situation while traveling.
Can you fly after 7 months?
At the end of pregnancy, travel gets more complicated. Most doctors do not recommend flying or traveling long distances after 36 weeks (8 months) of pregnancy. Many airlines even require a note from your doctor to get on board a flight if you are within a month of your due date. Not only is it uncomfortable to fly at the end of pregnancy, but there is also an increased risk of several complications, including:
- Blood clots;
- An emergency, such as bleeding.
What conditions mean I should not fly?
If you have complications in your pregnancy, your healthcare team may recommend that you do not travel.
You should not fly if you have been diagnosed with placenta previa, preeclampsia, preterm labor, or premature rupture of membranes. Before planning a trip, get a prenatal checkup and talk with your doctor about your situation.
Tips for flying while pregnant
Make sure you are up to date on vaccinations. Depending on where you are going, you may need additional vaccines. Keep in mind that certain vaccines are not safe during pregnancy.
- Think about potential dangers at your destination. Zika virus causes severe problems in a baby’s development, including a congenital disability called microcephaly. Ask about areas where the Zika virus is active. Avoid these areas if possible when pregnant.
- Gather your documents. Get a copy of your health records and bring it with you in case you need medical care while you are away from home.
- Make back-up plans. Look up the location of healthcare facilities near your destination.
- Look up the policies of the airline. Most airlines allow pregnant women to fly before 36 weeks.
- Get a good pair of compression socks. Gradual compression of your feet, ankles, and legs improves circulation and helps lower the risk of getting a blood clot.
- Stock up on medications. If you take medication, get enough supply to last through your trip, with some extra in case of delays.
- Plan for meals and snacks. Plenty of snacks can keep your energy up and help you avoid nausea and vomiting.
- Remember to hydrate. It is easy to forget to drink fluids when you are busy. Getting dehydrated can lead to contractions. You need 64 ounces of non-caffeinated liquid daily during pregnancy to maintain hydration.
- Bring a comfortable travel pillow. Pregnancy hormones loosen your joints, so it is more likely to get uncomfortable aches and pains if you fall asleep on an airplane.
- Plan frequent breaks. During your flight, get up and walk in the aisle every 2 hours to prevent blood clots.
What if something goes wrong?
Get medical help sooner rather than later if you experience any symptoms that are unusual for you. Remember that it will take doctors some time to review your records, and it may take additional time to find your way to medical care in an unfamiliar location.
If you experience the following symptoms, immediately head to the closest emergency department.
- Vaginal bleeding;
- Leaking of amniotic fluid (water breaking);
- Painful contractions;
- Signs of preeclampsia: a headache that will not go away, spots in your vision, or increased swelling in your hands and feet;
- Signs of a blood clot: swelling, pain, and redness in one leg;
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. If a blood clot travels to your lungs, it is a medical emergency.
You should also seek medical help right away if you get into a car accident or have an impact on your abdomen.
When flying on an airplane or traveling during pregnancy, it is crucial to plan ahead. If you are not in the month before your due date and your doctor clears you to travel, you can enjoy a fun and safe trip with some preparation.
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