Flying in pregnancy

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Catherine Le Nevez
@catherinelenevez
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Traveling by plane with a baby bump? Yes it can be done.

At least up to 36 weeks - 32 weeks if the pregnancy is twins - because after this time many airlines prohibit take-off, so as not to run the risk of having to witness a sudden early birth. If the pregnancy is physiological - that is, there are no particular complications - the flight is considered safe, even over long distances. The ideal, however, would be to limit yourself to journeys that do not last more than four hours.





Pregnancy and airlines


Up to 36 weeks of pregnancy - 32 in the case of twin pregnancy - airlines generally welcome pregnant women without problems, but with rules that may vary from company to company. Many, for example, after 28 weeks require a medical certificate stating that the mother and baby are in good health and that there are no particular risks of complications and premature birth.




Others require that specific documents be filled in when booking travel. If you are planning an air trip, the best thing to do is call the company, to get all the information.

Metal detector? No fear


The worries for future mothers start already at the airport, at the time of the checks: the idea, in fact, is that the radiation emitted by metal detectors can harm the child. Instead, you can rest assured: as the recent British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidelines on pregnancy and air travel recall, "normal security checks are not considered risky for either the woman or the baby".



Security checks are not risky for mom and baby

Same goes for the exposure to radiation during the flight: if air travel is occasional, there is no risk. However, if the trips are very frequent, the risks can increase and must be carefully evaluated. In this case, ask your gynecologist, and possibly an occupational doctor.

In flight, the child is safe


Reduced oxygen content in the cabin, turbulence, radiation: these are all the conditions to which one is exposed during a trip by plane, and it is inevitable to wonder if they can harm the baby, or the mother herself. In fact, the English Guidelines make it clear: if the pregnancy is physiological there are no risks for mother and baby. In particular, there is no evidence to indicate that changes in the level of atmospheric pressure and humidity inside the cabin could harm the mother and fetus.

Also, still according to the guidelines, flying does not increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth or breaking of the waters.

Tips for a safe flight


Although traveling by plane is generally safe, the fact of having to remain seated for a long time, in a confined space, can involve a increased risk of deep vein thrombosis, in practice the closure of a vein due to the formation of a clot or thrombus. This applies to everyone, but it is clear that the focus is particularly on pregnant women, who already have a minimum but physiological increase in the risk of thrombosis.

 

Unless other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or being overweight, are present, the chances of these events occurring are still very low, but it is possible to limit them even more with some small tricks, especially if the flight lasts more than four hours. Let's see those proposed by the RCOG Guidelines:

 

  • wear comfortable shoes and clothes, so as not to block blood circulation. It may be a good idea to bring slippers on your trip.
  • at the time of booking ask for a seat in the front row or on the corridor side: so you can enjoy greater freedom of movement, and take a few walks every now and then.
  • even while sitting, do it periodically some stretching movements or small circular movements with the toes and ankles.
  • drink a lot, especially water, to maintain a good state of hydration.
  • avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine.
  • wear support stockings: you can ask your doctor to recommend the most suitable ones for you.

 

If you have special risk factors for deep vein thrombosis, your doctor may prescribe a puncture of heparin, a blood thinner to be done just before your trip and in the days immediately following.

 

Other sources for this article: Guidelines for physiological pregnancy of the Ministry of Health; Article Advising pregnant woman on minimizing travel risks, published in Nursing Times.

 

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