Guidelines for pregnant ladies on flight
Flying is one of the safest modes of travel. Statistics show time and again that you have a better chance of dying in a road crash than in an airplane. If you’re currently pregnant and considering if flying is safe for you and your baby then these numbers are pretty reassuring.
However, flying while pregnant is as much a matter of comfort as it is about safety, and not knowing how your body will take to your new situation, thousands of feet up in the air.
Take the necessary precautions during your flight and you and your baby will be taking to it like a pro.
Tips on flying during your pregnancy
There are certain guidelines that you should follow no matter what stage of your pregnancy you are at. This is the time when no matter how independent you are and how much you hate it, you may need to consciously slow down.
Most airlines have systems in place to assist women who are pregnant. It may be challenging however, when you’re still not showing but feeling poorly and not up to your 100%. Being forewarned is being forearmed and it is better to be prepared beforehand so that you can have the most uneventful journey possible. The following guidelines are inherent to all the three trimesters of your pregnancy.
1. Ask your doctor
Generally, flying up until 36 weeks of pregnancy is considered safe if your pregnancy, has been an uneventful. However, that being said it is imperative to schedule an appointment with your doctor to confirm if it is okay for you to travel. This should be the first step, at the earliest; even as soon as you start planning the trip and yes, even before booking your air tickets.
2. Book an aisle seat with extra legroom
Considering that you will need to constantly visit the bathroom for restroom breaks, pick an aisle seat and which will give you easy accessibility to the nearest one. You don’t want to keep stepping on peoples toes everytime you need to go.
Extra legroom is desirable even in normal circumstances, so how much more will you need it when you are pregnant? Book seats which will give you that, even if they come at a price. You will be thankful for it later.
3. Break your journey
If you are taking a long haul flight, it would be a good idea to take a break in the form of a layover. This will give you a chance to stretch your legs, ease any cramps and also have a decent meal, which should definitely be better than the standard airline fare.
4. Risk of DVT
The risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT, is higher in pregnant women that in other passengers. This is a condition where blood clots are formed which can put you at the risk of pulmonary embolism.
Pregnant women experience a lot of hormonal changes in their body and are therefore at an elevated risk. This can be reduced by wearing support stockings and also by moving your legs, rotating your ankles and wiggling toes frequently while flying.
5. Dress comfortably
Wear the right clothes and dress comfortably for your journey. This is the time to keep comfort, support and safety your main priority. Avoid wearing any tight clothing or high heels especially considering that you will be navigating polished tile flooring, escalators and travellators for a large part as you navigate terminals and gates. Pass up any clothing and shoes that may need you to flex, contract and bend at awkward angles such as difficult to maneuver zippered boots and such.
6. Keep your seat-belt on at all times
The ACOG (American Council on Obstetrics and Gynecology) recommends keeping yourself buckled to your seat with the belt going under your abdomen, during the length of your flight. This is the best way to be safe in the event of sudden turbulence.
7. Stay Hydrated
The cabin pressure can cause dehydration especially in long haul flights. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water at regular intervals.
8. Light Cabin Baggage
This is an obvious one. Try to check in most of your bags and try to limit the amount of stuff you carry as your cabin luggage. Avoid reaching up to stow them away in the overhead compartments yourself. Do not be hesitant or afraid to ask for help!
In your first trimester
Your first trimester is a time to be careful as the chances of a miscarriage is highest at this stage. Generally, the baby’s heartbeat detected in the first ultrasound, is the first indication that all is well and things are coming along as they're supposed to. Although the ACOG does not advise anyone against travelling during the first trimester, because there is no conclusive study results to link miscarriage to pregnancy.
However, Tatnia Burnett,M.D., of the Mayo Clinic advises that if you are a frequent flier, or an airline employee, such as a pilot and cabin crew, the risk of a miscarriage is higher, due to the frequent exposure to radiation at those high altitudes. She recommends talking to your OB-GYN to get recommendations on how much you can limit your safe flying time to.
Keep in mind that the first trimester is the time when you will be experiencing early symptoms of your pregnancy such as, fatigue, nausea and morning sickness. Avoid eating any food that produce too much gas such as fried beans, broccoli and also avoid carbonated beverages.
Consider these symptoms and discuss with your doctor ways to ease and handle them best.
In your second trimester
As per the Mayo Clinic Obstetrician and medical editor-in-chief Dr Roger Harms, in a USA Today post, the second trimester is the best time for a pregnant woman to travel as it causes minimum discomfort while travelling.
This the time when you are reassured after your first ultrasound, your doctor’s advice and also may experience an ease in your pregnancy symptoms. For most women, the feelings of nausea will have eased off and they generally experience a feeling of well-being at this point.
In your third trimester
The third trimester is the last trimester of your pregnancy extending from the 28th week right up to the birth of your baby, which on an average is at 40 weeks. Doctors usually recommend flying up to only up to 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Several airlines also have policies on how far along you are in order to safely fly with them. Most will not allow after a certain time has elapsed in your pregnancy. Check the flying polices of the airline you plan to fly with to make an informed decision.
The WHO, on its International Health and Travel advisory page, has mentioned that after 28 weeks an airline requires a doctor's letter stating your expected date of delivery and if your pregnancy has been a normal one so far.
If you are having a single pregnancy, you may fly up to the thirty sixth week. If you are having twins, then you cannot fly beyond the 32nd week. A medical clearance will be required if your pregnancy is a complicated one.
The airline has a right to turn you down if any of the above conditions are not met with the view of avoiding any medical emergencies you may experience mid-flight.
Keep a contingent plan at hand in case you may need medical help at the end of your journey and emergency contacts in place.
Book tickets that are refundable in the event you may have to cancel and also buy travel insurance plans to cover your trip.
Your pregnancy other than causing a few physical limitations should not affect your flying adversely in any way. If your pregnancy is an uneventful one and there are no high risk factors such as the chances of an early labor or anything worrisome in your medical history, your doctor will most definitely give you the green signal.
Keep the above pointers in mind and with them and a calm head you will be travelling and flying just like you were before.