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Air Travel in Pregnancy


Updated May 21, 2014

Pregnant Belly Question Mark
Photo © Bambuh - Fotolia.com

Pregnancy was once seen as something that sent women to their homes once their bellies began to protrude, hence the term confinement. It was not considered appropriate for a pregnant women to be seen in public.

Nowadays pregnancy rarely changes our schedules, with the exception of complications. Women continue their normal lives usually for the duration of the pregnancy, with minor exceptions (Like knowing where all the bathrooms are!). Travel is no exception.

Travel is becoming more prevalent as families move further and further away. Traveling for holidays or as a last trip to see the family before the baby or as a last romantic vacation, is not unusual. This even includes out of the country travel and often air travel.

Air travel has had it's share of bad stories told and rumors spread, add pregnancy to the mixture and you probably wouldn't believe the number of things that are said about air travel while pregnant.

Most of the studies on pregnancy and air travel have been done on female flight attendants. One study did show that there was a slight increase in first trimester miscarriage, but this was for the flight attendants who worked a greater number of hours.

Other studies were worried about in-flight radiation. This was also shown to have a slight increase in potential problems. However, these problems were more related to the length of time in the air, the route flown, and other flight phenomena.

As you can see from the medical literature, flying is fairly safe while pregnant, even for the flight attendant, with some minor adjustments. Considering that the average passengers don't fly for extended periods, these concerns are not very relevant to the average flier.

There are some precautions that a pregnant traveler should consider:

  • Talk to your practitioner before flying. If you are more than 36 weeks pregnant, many airlines will not let you fly for fear that you'll deliver on board.

  • Try to do the majority of your traveling in the second trimester. Not only will you be more comfortable, but in general the risk of miscarriage and preterm labor are lower.

  • Avoid excessive flying. Although there are no hard and fast numbers. The flight attendants with the higher miscarriage rates flew on average 74 hours per month.

  • Make comfort arrangements. Try to get seats with more leg room, plan to walk in the aisles, potty breaks, and water...

  • Avoid travel to countries that would require immunization. Talk to your practitioner for more info on immunizations.

So remember, flying is not contraindicated in an uncomplicated pregnancy, but use your common sense and speak to your practitioner about your travel plans.

Readers Respond: What are your travel tips for pregnancy?

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