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Travelling for Two: Flying During Pregnancy

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Whether you are squeezing in a visit to your folks, making a business trip or taking one last romantic holiday before the baby comes, air travel is often the best and fastest way to get there. However, when you are pregnant, you'll face certain health and safety factors that can affect your trip. Just as you've had to adjust everything from eating and sleeping to exercise when pregnant, get ready to make some adjustments when it comes to travelling for two by air.

Who's At Risk?

While doctors agree that flying poses no health risks to a healthy low-risk pregnant woman, many medical professionals do urge their globe-trotting pregnant patients to consider a few things before dialling the travel agent.
Any woman who is considered a high-risk pregnancy should not travel by air. Air travel may exacerbate existing complications from high-risk pregnancy conditions such as placental abnormalities, hypertension, cardiovascular issues, gestational diabetes and pre-term labour risks. While a healthy pregnant woman will not develop new complications from air travel, there are issues of comfort and risk that you, as well as the airlines, must consider.

Airline Restrictions

Many airlines have their own rules and regulations concerning pregnant passengers. These flight restrictions vary by airline and usually depend on whether the flight is domestic or international, how far into the pregnancy the passenger is and the length of the flight. Some airlines restrict travel for women past a certain point in the pregnancy, while others require a medical report before boarding, no matter how far along the passenger is.

For example, British Airways has no travel restrictions for women until week 36 of pregnancy, unless the woman is carrying multiples. In that case, travel is restricted after 32 weeks. BA also requires that a pregnant passenger bring along a medical statement from her doctor if travelling after the 7th month, stating the expected due date and that the passenger is fit for air travel.

Special Needs Traveller

Once you've gotten a clean bill of health from your doctor, there are some things you should do to ease the discomforts of air travel. Depending on where you are in your pregnancy, there are different aspects of flying that can affect you more than others. Use common sense and do everything you can to reduce your stress level when flying, no matter what trimester you happen to be in.

First Trimester

  • At this point in your pregnancy, nausea and fatigue are the biggest issues. Ask the airline for a seat near the middle of the plane, shown to give the smoothest ride
  • Allow everyone to board and disembark before you to avoid standing for long periods.
  • Ask the attendant for a few extra airsickness bags, just in case and pack along a little snack, such as crackers or an apple, to keep your stomach settled.
  • Don't worry about air travel increasing your risk of miscarriage; studies show there is no link.

Second Trimester

Many doctors and patients feel this is the best time to travel, as you are out of the uncomfortable morning sickness stage, but too early for pre-term labour risks. Health and comfort are your primary concerns now.

  • Battle any circulatory discomfort by wearing compression stockings, tightly knit socks that force blood to your ankles and feet.
  • Plan to get up and walk up and down the aisle for a little walk to keep your joints loose and your muscles stretched (an aisle seat is ideal for this).
  • Wear loose clothing that will keep you comfortable and dress in layers to control your body temperature.
  • Bring along some bottles of water to keep yourself hydrated, as the cabin air can dry you out quickly.

Third Trimester

Reducing stress is the key for third trimester air travel. Use all the tips given for previous trimesters and plan on looking out for your own needs.

  • Ask the ticket agent for a seat with extra legroom, but be aware that most airlines will not give you the emergency row, traditionally the place for more space. That's because there are heavy lifting requirements for those passengers, and you don't qualify when pregnant.
  • You may experience an increased heart rate and blood pressure due to the pressurization of the cabin. You're not in danger, but you may feel warm or dizzy as a result.
  • Have your medical information on hand, just in case.
  • If you do start to feel intense contraction pains or if your water breaks, notify the flight attendant. The airline crew is trained to assist you as necessary, but the captain may choose to land at the nearest airport so you can get the proper medical attention you and your baby need.

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Article by Jennifer Maughan

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