Whether you’re on the road for business or planning a babymoon to celebrate your last months before motherhood takes over your life, you may find yourself considering taking a flight during pregnancy. Because pregnancy requires to make plenty of changes to your everyday routines — like handing over litter-box responsibilities, bypassing your favorite deli sandwich and limiting your caffeine intake — you may wonder whether flying during the early stages of pregnancy is even an option.
Cleared for Take-Off
When people talk about early pregnancy, they’re usually referring to the first trimester, the first three months of pregnancy. It’s usually safe to fly during your first trimester if you have a normal, healthy pregnancy, according to KidsHealth.org, an online parenting and health information resource maintained by the Nemours Foundation. But the physical adjustments of your first trimester, including morning sickness and fatigue, can make first-trimester travel challenging. If you’re cleared to travel, your second trimester may be a better time to schedule a flight, says Heidi Murkoff, author of the book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” on WhatToExpect.com, but many doctors recommend staying grounded after 36 weeks, just in case your baby’s an early bird.
Air travel can affect pregnancy in a few different ways, most of which won’t cause problems for normal pregnancies, explains Mayo Clinic obstetrician and medical editor-in-chief Roger W. Harms on MayoClinic.com. Because air pressure decreases when you’re in flight, your blood oxygen levels may drop slightly while you’re flying. You’re also exposed to a certain amount of low-level radiation in flight, which is usually significant only if you fly a lot during your pregnancy. If you’re a pilot, flight attendant or other frequent flier, your doctor may recommend a maximum safe amount of air travel during your pregnancy.
Have Your Boarding Pass Ready
It’s usually not a problem during the early stages of pregnancy, but if you’ve started showing early, airline agents may want proof that your doctor has given you the go-ahead to fly. Check with your airline before your flight to make sure you don’t need any special paperwork or to meet any particular requirement to fly during your pregnancy, and consider asking your ob-gyn for a note authorizing travel for you just in case you need it.
On the Move
To make flying more comfortable in early pregnancy, KidsHealth recommends that you move around frequently. On short flights, you can get by with flexing and moving your legs, but if you’re on a long flight, get up and walk down the aisle at least a couple of times — your frequent need to use the bathroom should make that easy. Moving improves your circulation. putting you at a reduced risk for blood clots. When you’re sitting, keep your seat belt fastened so that you won’t get too shaken up by turbulence. And keep an air sickness bag handy in case flying exacerbates your morning sickness.
Always talk to your health care provider before planning a flight to make sure that flying is safe for your particular pregnancy. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, sickle cell disease, placental abnormalities or gestational diabetes, your doctor may decide that flying at any time during pregnancy — including the first trimester — could increase your risk for pregnancy complications, explains Harms on MayoClinic.com. If you’ve shown any signs of premature labor or gone into early labor with previous pregnancies, your doctor may also encourage you to stay grounded during your pregnancy.