The idea of flying when pregnant may be a little daunting. Is it safe for you and your baby? How late into your pregnancy can you fly? Is it safe to go through security screening at the airport?
On this page, we answer all these questions... plus we share with you our tried and tested tips for staying comfortable on your journey and getting your babymoon off to the best possible start.
Of course, you should speak to your doctor before making any plans, but unless your pregnancy is considered 'high risk' in some way, then you should be cleared for take-off!
Conditions that may lead your doctor to caution against flying when pregnant include
To avoid problems when checking in - particularly if your pregnancy is advanced and obvious! - bring along a letter from your doctor confirming it's safe for you to fly. In fact, this letter is required by many airlines... and even if it isn't, we still recommend obtaining one.
Well, flying happens to be a form of travel that's frequently subject to change! In some circumstances, not only the TIME of your flight could change... you could find yourself being bumped to a different airline. And THAT airline might require a letter from your doctor, even if the original one didn't.
Far better to be safe than sorry - carry your doctor's letter with you at all times.
...with the cut-off for international flights generally earlier than for domestic.
But do check the airline's policy as you book - they all have different guidelines and some will even ask you to submit your doctor's letter before checking in.
The Babycenter has a really handy list of airline policies for pregnant travelers that you may find useful.
Medical experts agree that the best time for you and your bump to fly is some time in the second trimester (around weeks 14 to 28).
There are a few reasons for this...
Source: Mayo Clinic
According to the Mayo Clinic, in a healthy pregnancy neither the decreased air pressure during your flight, nor the radiation typically involved with flying, are harmful to you and your baby.More About Air Pressure
All commercial airlines - and some non commercial - are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to maintain a standard level of air pressure in the cabin. This pressure is the equivalent of the altitude of Denver... so, as long as you are a healthy individual and have no serious medical issues, then it shouldn't cause any problems for you and your bump at all.
That being said, your heart rate and blood pressure DO increase in order to keep you supplied with oxygen - and whilst this is not a problem for a healthy individual, it can be problematic if you suffer from any of the medical conditions we listed earlier - severe anemia, Sickle Cell disease, placental insufficiency and history of blood clots. That's why flying when pregnant is NOT recommended for women with these conditions.
That's because the effect on your body when flying at, say, 10,000 ft is the same as standing on the top of a 10,000 ft mountain!
Your body would have to work extremely hard to keep you and your baby supplied with the oxygen you both need.More About Cosmic Radiation
You may never have considered cosmic radiation before, but once you're pregnant you become an awful lot more aware of just what your body's exposed to!
'Cosmic ionizing radiation' is something emitted by the sun and other stars. We're protected from it by the earth's atmosphere when we're on the ground... but during flight we're at a higher altitude where the air is thinner and the protection is reduced.
Nevertheless, the exposure we receive during flight is not considered dangerous if we fly only occasionally (Source: The Health Physics Society - a scientific organization of professionals specializing in radiation safety).
Frequent flyers - pilots, flight attendants etc - may be at a more significant risk. So if you need to fly often during your pregnancy, speak to your doctor. It's likely that he or she will advise you to limit your total flight time for the duration of your pregnancy.
The million dollar question if you're flying when pregnant... and the one with a not-so-clear-cut answer!
The official line is that security screening machines in airports are safe for everyone, pregnant women included.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find that questions about their safety HAVE been raised, particularly over the 'backscatter machines' used in some US airports, which are designed to detect objects hidden under clothes. Unlike walk-through metal detectors, which use low-frequency electromagnetic fields to search for concealed weapons, backscatter machines use low-level x-rays.
Whilst the TSA insists the "potential for dangerous radiation from backscatter is low" and that it "doesn't pose a significant risk to pregnant passengers", some medical experts have doubts.
They feel the machines have not been tested rigorously enough and are concerned about the consequences of a machine malfunctioning.
The full controversy over backscatter machines is beyond the scope of this article, but we think one particular detail - the involvement of John Sedat, a UCSF professor, emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics - is worth taking into consideration.
John Sedat and three other scientists actually wrote to the presidential science and technology advisor to voice their concerns about the machines. You can see the letter here.
Based on the concerns mentioned above, you may decide you don't want to take ANY risks whatsoever and bypass the screening machines altogether.
And the good news is that you DO have that option. But you will be required to have a 'pat down' search instead.
Admittedly, opting for a pat-down can be a little awkward. For one thing, the search MUST be conducted by someone of the same gender as yourself... so you may have to wait for an officer to be available. The pat down may be all over your body, which can be embarrassing, although you CAN request a private screening, you ARE allowed a companion and you should NOT be asked to either lift or take off any item of clothing. In addition, another TSA employee must be present.
The momentary embarrassment is considered by many expectant moms to be preferable to undergoing screening by the more controversial machines... and, irritating though the whole process may be, it's worth keeping in mind that thorough screening is (sadly) very necessary in today's world and important for the security of all of us when we fly.
Gazing out of the plane from the window seat is nice, but when you're expecting a baby, the aisle seat is the place to be! It makes it easier for you to get up and down for frequent visits to the bathroom and for strolls up and down the cabin to stretch your legs.
For a smoother flight, opt for a seat over the wing in the middle of the plane. Some mommies-to-be like the aisle seat in the bulkhead position because it offers a little more legroom... BUT the arm rests in these seats don't usually lift up, which means you won't be able to stretch out if the seat beside you is empty.
Other women choose to sit at the front of the plane if flying when pregnant, because it allows them to sit down quickly once boarded and to get off the aircraft quickly once they've landed.
A site we strongly recommend for choosing your seat is www.seatguru.com, which shows you the seating plan for your flight and allows you to pick the very best position for you!
Your risk of thrombosis (blood clots) and varicose veins is slightly higher if you're flying when pregnant.
There are a few precautions you can take to protect yourself...
Wear maternity flight socks/compression stockings to keep your circulation flowing. It's important that they are the right size for you and put on properly. You should put them on before you get out of bed on the morning of your flight and leave them on until after you go to bed that night.
We love Amazon's Leg Sleeves, which come in a variety of colors.
Walk up and down the aisle as often as you can to promote circulation. Whilst you're sitting down, flex your ankles and extend your feet frequently.
Put your carry-on luggage under the seat in front of you... you can use it as a 'footstool' to keep your feet elevated.Don't Dress to Impress - Dress for Comfort!
Your feet may swell, so wear comfy footwear. Flip flops are good because they allow for plenty of expansion!
When it comes to your clothing, there are 2 important things to remember... bathroom visits and fluctuations in temperature!
As you'll likely be visiting the bathroom rather (ahem!) often, wear clothes that are easy to undo/remove in a very confined space. And you may also find that your rampaging hormones will make you feel cool one minute and hot the next, so dress in easy-to-remove layers.Food and Drink for the Flight
Let's face it... refreshments are something of a priority when you're pregnant! So here are a few points to take into consideration when it comes to food and drink...
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