Generally, commercial air travel during pregnancy is considered safe for women who have healthy pregnancies. Still, if you're pregnant, it's best to check with your health care provider before you fly.
Your health care provider might caution against air travel if your pregnancy is considered high risk or you're at risk of preterm labor. Similarly, your health care provider might restrict travel of any type after 36 weeks of pregnancy.
If your health care provider approves air travel and you have flexibility in your travel plans, the best time to fly might be in the middle of your pregnancy — about weeks 14 to 28. This is when you're likely to feel your best, and the risks of miscarriage and premature labor are the lowest.
When you fly:
- Check the airline's policy about air travel during pregnancy. Guidelines for pregnant women might vary by carrier and destination.
- Choose your seat carefully. For the most space and comfort, consider requesting an aisle seat.
- Buckle up. During the trip, fasten the lap belt under your abdomen.
- Promote circulation. If possible, take occasional walks up and down the aisle. If you must remain seated, flex and extend your ankles often.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Low humidity in the cabin can lead to dehydration.
Decreased air pressure during flight can slightly reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood, but this doesn't pose risks if you're otherwise healthy.
Likewise, the radiation exposure associated with air travel at high altitudes isn't thought to be problematic for most business or leisure travelers who fly during pregnancy.
There's a caveat for frequent fliers, though.
Pilots, flight attendants and others who fly steadily might be exposed to a level of cosmic radiation that raises questions during pregnancy. If you must fly frequently during your pregnancy, discuss it with your health care provider. He or she might limit your total flight time during pregnancy.
Feb. 12, 2013
- Lockwood CJ, et al. Initial prenatal assessment and patient education. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Nov. 29, 2012.
- Prout M, et al. Preflight patient assessment. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Nov. 29, 2012.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Practice Bulletins — Obstetrics. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 443: Air Travel During Pregnancy. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009;114:954.