A short holiday, even if just for a weekend, can help you take a refreshing break before the arrival of your baby. Whether you are traveling to an exotic destination or just going to see your family living in another state, there are certain safety measures to be considered for the wellbeing of you and your baby.
Is it safe to fly during the first trimester of pregnancy
There is usually no risk of complications when flying during the first 13–14 weeks. However, most women prefer to avoid traveling in this period due to severe morning sickness and other early pregnancy symptoms like dizziness and fatigue . In addition to that, many prefer to postpone any travel plans for later due to the high risk of miscarriage in the first trimester .
When can you fly during pregnancy
The best time to fly is during the second trimester (between 14 to 27 weeks) when the risks of miscarriage and early labor are considerably low. Moreover, the symptoms of morning sickness are also likely to bother you less at this stage [1, 2]. However, you need to consult your physician before planning a long trip to know about any possible risks and avoid unnecessary complications .
Common issues faced when traveling by air while pregnant
It is normal for some women to feel uncomfortable sitting in their seats, especially during international flights or any long flights. Some of these problems may lead to serious issues if not taken care of properly. These include:
- Swelling of the feet and ankles as well as varicose veins caused by reduced circulation in the lower part of the body due to sitting in one position for a long time. In some cases, deep venous thrombosis may occur when blood clots develop in the veins of the lower limbs or pelvis, increasing the risk of pulmonary embolism that causes blockage of an artery in the lungs [8, 10].
- Motion sickness characterized by nausea and vomiting that occurs more commonly in women having a history of travel sickness [8, 9].
- Stuffy nose and discomfort in the ears as a result of increased air pressure in the cabin . Although sitting in pressurized cabins do not usually pose any risk to your baby, traveling in smaller planes with no cabin pressure may affect your circulation [4, 5].
Are there any risks of radiation
Many pregnant women believe that the small amount of radiation exposure while passing by the X-ray scanner at the airport or flying at higher altitudes may affect their baby. According to doctors, such short-term encounter with radiation does not have any harmful effects on your pregnancy. However, traveling on a frequent basis must be avoided [4, 5].
How late in pregnancy can you fly
When to stop flying while pregnant
If you are having a high-risk pregnancy or have an increased chance of developing some serious complications, you should stop traveling by air as soon as you find out about the risks . In case you are carrying twins then flying by air is not allowed beyond 32 weeks .
Rules and regulations for traveling while pregnant
- A permission letter written by your doctor where the due date is mentioned, confirming no possibility of labor within 72 hours 
- A prenatal chart containing important information like your age, the last menstrual cycle date, your medical history, laboratory tests, and results of your previous pregnancies 
As some airlines may have different rules and regulations, it is advisable to stay informed about any other flying restrictions before planning your trip .
When to avoid flying when pregnant
Have a thorough discussion with your physician if you are having any pregnancy-related health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes or have a history of miscarriage, or premature birth, prior to traveling [3, 4]. It is further recommended to avoid flying in the following cases:
- Acute anemia that might induce an early labor [8, 11]
- Severe vaginal bleeding at any stage as it might indicate some serious underlying conditions [8, 12]
- Pulmonary or heart disorders resulting in shortness of breath 
- A previous ectopic pregnancy 
Tips for air travel during pregnancy
Purchasing a travel insurance, that will cover all your medical expenses in case you experience any health issues during your trip, can be a good idea . Taking the following precautions reduces the possibilities of various major complications:
- Wear comfortable shoes along with support stockings or knee-high socks especially meant for pregnant women, for improved circulation in the feet and legs 
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration that may occur due to low moisture content inside the cabin 
- Wear loose clothing to sit comfortably throughout the flight 
- Walk up and down the aisle every hour for few minutes to avoid swelling of the legs 
- Stretch your legs while sitting or standing to prevent the formation of blood clots 
- Select an aisle seat that will provide more room for your legs as well as allow you to get up more easily when going for a short walk or visiting the washroom 
- Fasten your seatbelt under your bump and across the pelvis 
- Carry your prenatal vitamins and any other essential medications in your handbag as keeping them in your luggage may separate you from them 
- Carry some whole grain crackers in case you are having severe nausea, especially if traveling during the first trimester. You can also ask your practitioner for an anti-nausea medication .
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