Pregnancy Guideline

Travelling On-Air During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

7 min read | Updated on 15-02-2022 by HappyPreggie
When it comes to travelling, a lot of pregnant couples will always have these questions; Is it okay to fly when pregnant? And how safe is it to go on aeroplanes during the pandemic? 

Traveling during pregnancy
(Image credits to Family Vacation Critic)

The answer is yes, it is okay for pregnant women to hop on a plane during this difficult time. However, there are also several precautions to practice and safety concerns that should be taken into account depending on when you decide to book a trip and how high risk your pregnancy is. Here is some information that you need to know before your next journey.

Before The Trip

Most airlines in general typically allow pregnant women to fly right up until the 36th week of their pregnancy and strongly discourages those who have exceeded beyond that period. Hence, it is important to conduct your research before booking your flight to check the rules and restrictions of the airlines’ company. You will also want to meet up and consult with your Obstetrician and Gynecologist (OB-GYN) or midwife before travelling especially if you are at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. You can inquire them about medical concerns such as:

Prenatal care: Decide if you will need urgent prenatal care upon arriving at the destination depending on the length of your journey.

Nausea remedies: For those with motion sickness issues, ask the doctor for a nausea remedy or acupressure bands that may reduce the sickness.

Gas and diarrhoea remedies: Ask for diarrhoea remedies as an early preparation. This is because the increase in altitude on flights can cause intestinal gas to expand which may expose you to bacteria that can lead to diarrhoea.

Medical care suggestions: Inquire recommendations and suggestions about names of doctors or hospitals at your destination, just in case.

Flu vaccine: Ask your healthcare provider whether if you will need a flu shot before you leave.

Decompression stockings: These are a pair of stockings that are designed to help with blood flow. Ask if you should wear them. 

Pregnant woman and doctor
(Image credits to Wallsheaven)

Aside from meeting your OB-GYN, you should also do other preparations such as checking your health insurance plan to determine if you are covered and what will happen when you need medical help at your destination. You may also want to check out the need for a supplemental policy of overseas coverage if you are travelling out of the country. If necessary, you should consider buying medical evacuation insurance so you can be flown home for medical care.

During The Flight

Once you are checked and ready to go, here are some of the things that you may want to take as precautions when you are inside the plane:

Stay hydrated: Try to drink as much water as you can during the flight to prevent dehydration which may lead to problems with your blood flow to the uterus.

Keep seat belts on: Make sure you keep your seat belt fastened at all times. The seat belt should be buckled right under your belly and low on the hipbones.

Pre-flight diet: Avoid gassy foods like beans, cabbage, broccoli and carbonated drinks that can make you feel uncomfortable in flight.

Take a walk: Taking a walk down the aisle every half hour or so during a calm flight can help keep your blood flowing smoothly. Meanwhile, when you’re on the seat, flex and extend your ankles to boost blood circulation.

Find the best seat: Try to book an aisle seat so that it will be easier for you to get in and out for walks and trips to the bathroom. Any seat is fine, but a seat over the wing will probably give you the smoothest journey.

Risks of Travelling During Pregnancy

While many people have proved that it is alright to go on plane trips when pregnant, there are still several risks for travelling on air during pregnancy.

(Image credits to RNZ)

#1 Blood clots

Sitting in one spot for a long time when you are pregnant can cause blood to pool in your legs which can raise the risk of blood clots. Moreover, the recirculated cabin air and low humidity inside the plane will also make this condition worse. You can lower this risk by moving around as often as your doctor recommends.

#2 Blood pressure and heart rate

Flying during pregnancy can make your blood pressure and heart rate go up easier. Although usually, it will not put you in any huge danger.

#3 Body scans

According to the Transportation Security Administration, the body scan technology used for security at airports is safe during pregnancy, but you are always free to request a hand or wand search instead.

#4 Radiation

For a frequent flyer, such as a pilot, flight attendant or businesswoman, travelling on the plane too much may cause an increase in radiation exposure that may affect the pregnancy.

Besides these risks, pregnant women who are experiencing complications are also strongly advised not to travel on air. These complications include:
  • Cervical problems, such as “incompetent cervix” where the cervix opens too early during pregnancy, leading to miscarriages or premature birth
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Previous or present gestational diabetes
  • Previous or present high blood pressure
  • Previous or present pre-eclampsia (A toxic condition sometimes occurring in pregnancy)
  • Previous or present abnormalities of the placenta
  • Prior miscarriage
  • Prior ectopic pregnancy (A pregnancy that develops outside the womb)
  • Prior premature labour

In the middle of the pandemic, travelling does pose more risks for pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 could impact pregnant people and fetuses differently with a higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and intensive care unit (ICU) admission. Hence, while it is okay to get on flights during pregnancy, it is very important to take strong precautions to avoid any issues or problems for both you and your baby during or after the journey. You may also want to talk to your health care provider to get a better insight into whether you are permissible to travel on air or not. 

Want to read more? Check out what you can expect for having pregnancy during the pandemic and also these common causes of miscarriage and pregnancy loss
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