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Can I Fly During Pregnancy

A typical pregnancy should not serve as a deterrent for embarking on a long-awaited vacation or visiting distant relatives residing hundreds, and at times, thousands of miles away. Nonetheless, the expectant mother may understandably have reservations, concerned about the potential impact of a lengthy flight on her own well-being as well as that of her unborn child.

In the majority of instances, air travel poses no harm to either the mother or her developing baby. However, prior to undertaking the journey, it is advisable for every pregnant woman to seek counsel from her obstetrician, who will evaluate all potential risks and grant approval or disapproval for the flight.

Myths about harm

Physicians often discourage air travel during the initial trimester of pregnancy. This caution stems from the critical development of the fetus’s vital organs during this period, where even minor stress could potentially lead to congenital abnormalities. Furthermore, at altitudes typically reached by airplanes, approximately 10,000 meters, the cabin’s internal pressure is slightly reduced, resulting in a decreased oxygen concentration in the air. This information is compounded by the knowledge of heightened radiation exposure from space, which is also deemed unfavorable.

However, extensive research has indicated that cosmic radiation levels in-flight are only 50% higher than those measured on the ground, and the air composition within the aircraft differs insignificantly from standard conditions. Consequently, a few hours spent aboard an airplane should not pose any fatal consequences for pregnant women.

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Flying during pregnancy – Early term

Certain obstetricians and gynecologists caution against air travel during the initial trimester for expectant mothers. Their concerns primarily revolve around the potential risk of spontaneous abortion. For those experiencing severe pregnancy-related discomfort, undertaking transcontinental flights can pose genuine dangers. The fluctuating pressures, cramped quarters, and prolonged confinement to a seat do not bode well for the well-being of the expecting mother. However, if you find yourself at ease when using public transportation and comfortably navigate higher floors of buildings, there is no reason to hesitate in arranging an extended journey.

Useful tips

Familiarity with a few techniques can facilitate your journey through air travel with utmost comfort. Ideally, securing seats in the business or premium class would be the most desirable option, granting slightly greater seat spacing and enhanced comfort. However, not everyone can afford such luxuries. Opt for loose dresses crafted from natural, breathable fabrics, favoring them over tight skirts and snug jackets. Wearing compression stockings during the flight is advisable. These specialized hosiery items promote venous circulation, preventing the onset of varicose veins by reducing venous stasis and enhancing capillary blood flow. It is recommended to consult a phlebologist in advance to determine the appropriate type of stockings for your needs. 

Engage in foot exercises and indulge in gentle foot and lower leg massages. A needle massage ball proves to be an excellent tool for this purpose, gently stimulating reflexogenic zones, fortifying the peripheral and central nervous systems, while invigorating the skin and muscles. Remarkably, this ball is also suitable for massaging infants. Do not hesitate, as your discreet physical routine will scarcely attract the attention of others, yet it will be immensely beneficial for your feet. Avoid prolonged confinement to your seat; take the opportunity to stroll around the cabin every half an hour. You may choose to approach the flight attendant for water or make a visit to the ladies’ restroom. Endeavor to stay hydrated by consuming ample amounts of water, refraining from juice or coffee.

The perfect time

The optimal time for embarking on an aerial journey is during the second trimester of pregnancy. By then, the trials of morning sickness have typically subsided, your belly remains modest in size, and your hormonal equilibrium has more or less stabilized. During this trimester, a sense of euphoria often envelops expectant mothers as they revel in the realization of their captivating condition, accompanied by a surge of creative zeal and unprecedented vitality. Within these three months, one can venture across the expanse of Europe, partake in a yoga retreat tailored for expectant mothers nestled in the enchanting realm of Thailand, or bask in the invigorating mountain air of the Alps. The invaluable counsel regarding conduct during air travel—donning compression garments, engaging in leg exercises, traversing the cabin, and staying hydrated—remains pertinent and indispensable.

Third trimester

Air travel during the final stages of pregnancy is ill-advised. Beyond the 33rd week, the likelihood of premature labor escalates, particularly for women with a history of multiple births or those carrying twins. By the 30th week, airline personnel will request the presentation of an exchange card and a physician’s attestation specifying the permissible duration of the flight. A formal acknowledgement absolving the airline of any liability for potential complications will also be required. It is prudent to familiarize yourself with the carrier’s policies on the transportation of expectant mothers well in advance. Doing so will shield you from unwarranted concerns and misunderstandings at the airport, thus ensuring a journey imbued with comfort and tranquility.

What’s really dangerous

 The sole genuine peril associated with air travel pertains to an augmented vulnerability to thrombosis, a concern shared not only by expectant mothers but by all who traverse the skies. Consequently, the guidelines are uniform: don compression stockings during the flight and ensure sufficient hydration.

From a medical standpoint, there exist several circumstances that render air travel untenable for a woman in her delicate condition. These encompass placenta previa, circulatory impairments, and imminent miscarriage, among others. In essence, any complications necessitating heightened medical vigilance or even bed rest on the part of the expectant mother signify that not only air travel, but all modes of transportation, ought to be forsaken.

Airline rules

Conversely, nearly all airlines explicitly highlight in their carriage regulations the prohibition of allowing expectant mothers who have surpassed a specified gestational period on board. This measure is undertaken out of concern for the safety of the woman herself and to avoid the emergence of an in-flight emergency situation. Undoubtedly, the notion of giving birth to a new life amidst the lofty clouds evokes a sense of romanticism, but childbirth itself, firmly grounded, invariably entails immense risks, and in the cramped confines of an aircraft cabin, bereft of medical personnel, no flight crew would welcome such an extraordinary occurrence.

Hence, there exists a restriction on air travel for pregnant women commencing at 34–36 weeks. Certain airlines have erred on the side of caution, setting the threshold even lower, at 28 weeks. One can empathize with such a decision, as it may have been prompted by prior, less auspicious experiences.