Air Travel By Trimester
In the past, women were told not to fly at all during their pregnancies. Welcome to the 21st century! Here are more tips to make your trip enjoyable— and safe—for you and your baby.
Is Air Travel Safe?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that air travel is usually safe for the majority of pregnant women, although each individual should consult with her own obstetrician before making any air travel plans. “In general, air travel is OK during the entire pregnancy,” says Dr. Kenneth Johnson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University. “Common sense dictates that women with complicated pregnancies involving
twins, hypertensive disease,
preterm labor, and other pregnancy-related
complications should not fly.”
First Trimester: Increased Symptoms
Many people have trouble with air travel, even when they’re feeling their best. The risk of exacerbated symptoms of early pregnancy, including
nausea, is the main concern of
first-trimester air travelers and their doctors. “During the first three months, Mom may just not feel well enough to fly,” says Ann Douglas, parenting expert and author of
The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. “Morning sickness may be exaggerated,” she says.
First Trimester: Nausea-Fighting Tips
Douglas advises sniffing a lemon slice to help settle the waves of nausea. She also suggests the use of Sea Bands—which use pressure on the wrists to counteract nausea, in the same manner as acupuncture—during extended travel. And consider taking an
anti-nausea kit. “And a smart mom shouldn’t rely on airline food,” she says. “Luckily, smoking is no longer an issue, but a nearby passenger wearing strong perfume may be.”
First Trimester: Miscarriage Risk?
Women in their
first trimester are at their peak risk of
miscarriage. According to studies on airline flight attendants, flying does not increase that risk. Still, most moms-to-be prefer not to travel too far from their obstetricians in the first three months, Douglas says.
Second Trimester: Great Time to Fly
The safest time for a pregnant woman to travel is during the
(18 through 24 weeks of pregnancy), when she feels her best and is in least danger of premature labor or miscarriage. Unless the pregnancy is marred by other complications such as poorly controlled diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or sickle cell disease, air flight should be relatively pleasant during this time.
Second Trimester: Circulation
One thing a
second-trimester traveler should be aware of is the possibility of circulatory problems, especially on longer flights. “Twenty percent of pregnant women develop varicose veins, and 80 percent develop spider veins during a pregnancy,” says Dr. Luis Navarro, founder and director of The Vein Treatment Center in New York City.
Second Trimester: Circulation Safety Tips
Since a long flight requires sitting in an often-confined position, Dr. Navarro offers these tips for in-flight circulation safety:
Wear loose, non-restrictive clothing.
Wear compression stockings to promote blood flow from your ankles to your heart and lungs. Remember to put them on before your flight, while lying in bed, and to wear them all day.
Don’t cross your legs during the flight.
Drink plenty of water. Air flights may cause dehydration, which thickens the blood.
Exercise. Walk in the aisle, stretch your legs, and wiggle your toes.
If you’re lucky enough to be seated next to an empty seat, take advantage of it.
Third Trimester: Premature Labor
The main concern of women traveling by air during their third trimester is premature labor, Douglas says. “It’s essential to have a medical contact at your destination,” she says. Douglas also states that a mom-to-be should make sure her health insurance is valid and will cover her newborn before she leaves home. “You don’t want to be unsure, especially if you’re in a strange or new location.”
Third Trimester: Comfort Issues
The other concern of
third trimester air travelers is “the comfort issue,” Douglas says. “Airplane seats are not comfortable, even at the best of times,” she says. Pregnant moms shouldn’t hesitate to request a seat with the most space available, even if that means an upgrade, an emergency row seat, or one on the aisle, Dr. Navarro says. “Cramped, upright seating can prove uncomfortable at best,” he says.
Third Trimester: Baby on Board
If you’re flying close to your due date (again, check with your health practitioner prior to your trip), “Inform the crew early if you experience regular painful contractions,” Dr. Johnson says. You never know when Baby just might want to make his appearance in the world! It’s best to be prepared and
stay alert to any changes in your body.
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