Storks Were Meant to Fly
Air travel for pregnant women requires few extra precautions
So you’re leaving on a jet plane and want to make sure your pregnant status is no cause for concern.
Of course, check with your doctor/midwife if you have any health issues – certain conditions like clotting disorders, severe anemia and placental insufficiency can put you at risk.
However, if you are a healthy pregnant woman and your fetus is progressing normally, feel free to take to the skies. Consider your own tolerance for turbulence and ability to sit still for long periods of time before embarking on a long flight, and keep the following tidbits in mind.
First, check with your airline as there may be restrictions for flying while pregnant, especially towards the latter stages of gestation. Most airlines have a cut-off date around the 7- or 8-month mark where they will not allow you to fly for liability reasons (nobody wants to deliver a baby up in the clouds). There may be different rules for domestic vrs. international flights, so check and double check if you’re anywhere near the limit on the flight or return flight. Ticket agents won’t necessarily volunteer this information unless directly asked. Some airlines require you have a doctor’s note stating it is safe for you to travel – not a bad idea to have one on hand just in case.
Now, let’s take care of some of the big apprehensions moms-to-be might be obsessing about. Don’t worry about walking through the airport security metal detector. The immeasurably low level of radiation will have no ill effect on the baby.
And don’t worry about decreased air pressure and low oxygen levels up there. Commercial airline cabins are adequately pressurized and oxygenated so the human body can adapt to the variance. Note, however, that small private planes might not be pressurized sufficiently especially over 7000 ft., so exercise caution if that is your intended mode of air transportation.
As for increased radiation due to high altitude, that’s only a slight concern if you fly really frequently – like if you’re a pilot or flight attendant or commute daily by plane (if so, discuss this with your healthcare provider).
Finally, a word about airplane air quality. Commercial airlines use a mixture of outside and recirculated air in the cabin and newer aircraft are often equipped with HEPA filters to boot. Some controversy exists over whether or not the air quality standards are adequate (better air is pumped into the cockpit, which tells you something), but the perceived increase in contracting colds and flu while flying probably has more to do with being cooped up in an enclosed space than with any air filtration system. For what it’s worth, being pregnant puts you at no greater risk for airplane air quality issues than the general population at large.
For more practical tips on air travel for pregnant women, read this handy checklist.