Can I Fly While I'm Pregnant?
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Just because you are pregnant doesn't mean you have to stop living your life. Nine months is a long time without a holiday and for those of you who like to travel abroad you might need to consider how safe it is to fly while pregnant.
During the first trimester there is every chance that you might not be feeling well enough to travel, especially if you are one of the unlucky ladies who suffers with morning sickness. This is also the time that you are at a higher risk of miscarriage so you need to be extra cautious.
From around your 14th week of pregnancy through to week 27 you are considered to be in your second trimester. This is the safest and perhaps most comfortable time to fly while pregnant. In your second trimester you are likely to have higher energy levels, your morning sickness will hopefully have passed and the risk of miscarriage is at its lowest.
Once you have reached your third trimester there is a higher risk of going into labour. Flying during this time is therefore not recommended as you would not want to give birth on a plane. For this reason, many flight operators do not allow women to fly past 28 weeks. It is worth checking with your travel company that you will be allowed to fly if you are planning on doing so after 28 weeks. You also need to consider the stage of pregnancy you will be at on your return flight. If you are travelling with a different airline on your way home it is worth checking their terms and conditions to ensure they don't have different rules and regulations to the flight operator used on the outward journey. Flight operators have the right to refuse you boarding the plane from 35 weeks of pregnancy so you could have to stay where you are until your baby has been born. Again, check your terms and conditions as some companies do not allow flying from as early as 28 weeks of pregnancy. You may need to obtain a signed letter from your GP confirming your due date and that you are fit to travel. Without this, it is likely that you will be refused passage if there are any questions surrounding your due date.
Top 10 concerns for flying while pregnant
- Cosmic Radiation and your unborn baby. Every day of our lives we are exposed to tiny amounts of radiation or ions (electronically charged atoms from outer space). The earth's atmosphere does a good job of protecting us, but when we are at altitude such as flying on a plane the atmosphere is thinner and provides less protection. Only flying once or twice while pregnant should cause no harm at all, but flying frequently (more than 200 hrs) while pregnant puts your baby at higher risk from the effects of cosmic radiation. This can lead to birth defects.
- Airport Security - Metal detectors. These are safe as they do not use x-rays and provide no exposure to radiation.
- Airport Security - Baggage scanners. Although x-rays are used to check your baggage you would not be exposed to anything harmful unless you were to place your hands inside the machine. The x-rays do not affect anything in close proximity so you will be safe.
- In-flight Cabin Pressure
- Providing you have a healthy pregnancy it is perfectly safe to travel on a commercial flight as the cabin pressure is kept at a standard level. You can discuss this further with your GP if you have any concerns. Pregnant women should not travel in unpressurised planes such as a crop-sprayer.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) - The risk of DVT is increased during pregnancy and while flying. It is important that you keep active during the flight. You can do this by rotating your ankles, walking your feet under your chair, and raising and lowering your arms. It is advisable that you wear flight socks to keep pressure on your lower legs. If you have previously had a DVT you would be advised not to fly.
- Morning Sickness - Suffering from morning sickness is never fun but flying while pregnant adds the possibly of travel sickness too. It is not harmful to you or your baby unless it is excessive. However, it is likely to make your passage miserable.
- Going into labour - Most flight operators will not allow you to fly past 35 weeks and for some it is as early as 28 weeks. Carry your maternity notes with you just in case there are any issues should you go into premature labour.
- Miscarriage - Flying whilst pregnant is not advised during your first trimester as this period carries the greatest risk of miscarriage. It is best to wait until your second trimester if you need to fly.
- Breathing problems - Pregnant women with asthma or high blood pressure are advised to avoid flying. Speak to your GP before making a decision.
- Travelling comfortably - On the majority of flights your seat is allocated to you at check-in. For this reason it is advisable that you board the plane and exit the plane last to avoid being bustled along with the crowds and risk being knocked. Ask travelling companions to help you with your bags (you can ask flight attendants if you are travelling alone), sit down as much as possible, relax and keep your fluids up.