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What you should know about Air travel and pregnancy

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

pregnant passenger

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) advises patients that the safest time to fly during pregnancy is before 37 weeks and before 32 weeks if you are carrying twins. RCOG says that if a woman is having a straightforward pregnancy, flying is not harmful for her or her baby.

The safest time to fly is before 37 weeks as after this a woman could go into labor at any time. However for women carrying uncomplicated twins, the safest time to fly is before 32 weeks. However, many airlines do not allow women to fly earlier than this and it is important for women to check with the airline they are traveling with.

Some pregnant women may experience discomfort during flying, states the information. For example, swelling of their legs, pregnancy sickness, nasal congestion and problems with their ears.

Long haul flights increase the risk of developing a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms in your leg or pelvis due to sitting for a prolonged length of time. Pregnancy increases this risk further. This patient information discusses ways to minimize the risk of a DVT on flights over four hours. The guidance recommends that women wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes, take regular walks around the plane, do in-seat exercises every 30 minutes, have regular cups of water, cut down on drinks containing alcohol or caffeine and wear graduated elastic compression stockings.

There may be some circumstances when it may be advised not to fly, states the guidance. For example if a woman has an increased risk of going into labor before their due date, has severe anemia, sickle cell disease, has recently had significant vaginal bleeding or if a woman has a serious condition affecting her lungs or heart.

Chair of the RCOG’s Patient Information Committee, Philippa Marsden, said, “This revised information is for pregnant women thinking about travelling by air for both short and long haul.

“To help decide whether or not to fly, women should think about how many weeks pregnant they will be, what facilities are available at their destination and whether it will increase their risk of medical problems. It is important to discuss any health issues or pregnancy complications with your midwife or doctor before you fly.”

Cath Broderick, Chair of the RCOG Women’s Network, a lay-group of women who inform the College about issues affecting women’s health, added:

“Many women seek advice around the safety of flying when pregnant and this patient-friendly guidance offers sensible recommendations, which had direct input from women when developing it.

“There is new advice around what to take on board the flight such as your pregnancy notes, documents confirming your due dates, a European Health Insurance card and any medication you are taking.”

This information has been developed by the RCOG Patient Information Committee. It is based on the RCOG Scientific Impact Paper Air Travel and Pregnancy (May 2013).

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