Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Is Air Travel Safe For My Baby? Ask the Captain!

We mothers are worriers.... right from the time we conceive the baby. One common worry among pregnant mothers is whether air travel would be safe for them and their babies. This is a common question most mothers who have to travel would ask their gynaecologists. But why not ask the Captain or pilot too?

Here's what Captain Stacey Chance has to say about flying while pregnant.

It is important to check in advance with your selected airline regarding special regulations concerning pregnant passengers. Many airlines have existing regulations that must be followed closely to ensure the safety of you and your baby. It is important to understand that while airline travel is safe, some special considerations are important to consider while flying during pregnancy.

In 2001, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists released several precautions for pregnant air travelers who suffer from obstetric and/or medical complications. As stated in this news release, most US airlines permit women to fly up to 36 weeks gestation on domestic flights and 35 weeks gestation for international flights. To prevent unforeseen emergencies, pregnant women should avoid air travel with existing medical or obstetric complications, such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, poorly controlled diabetes, sickle cell disease, or if they suffer from a significant risk for premature labor or placental abnormalities (ACOG, 2001). If your personal and pregnant health does not suffer from any complications, you should do well during flight as long as you make a few precautions to increase your comfort level while on the ground and in the air.

If you experience anxiety while flying, the remainder of this course/book's information will help you adjust to flying while pregnant. This information will be helpful for both pregnant and non-pregnant travelers who feel anxious during flight.

If possible, request a seat in the front of the plane. Obtaining an aisle seat is best, as this gives a little extra room and makes it easier to get up and walk around during extended flights. The farther you are into your pregnancy will increase the frequency in which you will need to use the restroom. Sitting in an aisle seat makes frequent restroom visitations much easier. Many air travelers worry about the formation of blood clots, especially during lengthy flights. Pregnant women are advised to wear support stockings and periodically move their lower legs to allow for proper blood circulation (ACOG, 2001).

If you are traveling across several time zones, be sure to take into account how this can affect your body. It is important to get plenty of rest before departing, and plan for extra rest when you reach your destination. It is a good idea to allow yourself a couple of days to readjust to different time zones. Gradually adjust your bedtimes and mealtimes toward your destination's time zone. Move these times back in preparation for your return journey, as this will help mitigate the uncomfortable effects often referred to as jet lag. For some women, making a few proactive, preparative changes is well worth the effort. If possible, motivate your travel partner to do this as well. You both may tolerate the travel easier by doing so.

Be certain to fly in pressurized aircraft, like commercial jets. Some smaller aircraft that feed into larger airports and most personal aircraft are not pressurized. Significant changes in pressure at high altitudes may reduce the cabin's level of oxygen that is needed by you and also by your baby. Low cabin humidity and changes in cabin pressure "may result in an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and a significant decrease in breathing capabilities in pregnant women with a weakened cardiovascular system" (ACOG, 2001). Be sure to ask your travel representative or airline whether you will be traveling in a pressurized aircraft and if there are any airline-regulated precautions in adjusting to changing cabin pressure for pregnant women. Above all, be sure to advise your attendant and airline that you are pregnant.

When making arrangements for your air travel, be careful to look at the food menus available. Be sure to pick a meal that is high in protein and allows you to make healthy choices. You may request special dietary requests ahead of time with most airlines serving in-flight meals. Also pack extra water, and drink plenty of fluids during your journey. This will counteract the effects of dehydration that results from the drier air in aircraft cabins. Also bring along some individually wrapped crackers or healthy snacks in the event you need to supplement your airline meal or need something to settle your stomach before, during, or after your flight.

A seatbelt should be worn continuously throughout the flight. The risk of trauma due to unpredictable turbulence is significant, and wearing your seatbelt is highly recommended (ACOG, 2001). Fasten the seatbelt so the belt is snug and just below your abdomen. Do not hesitate to ask the flight attendant if you need extra assistance.

By making just a few modifications to your normal flying routine, you will ensure a safe and comfortable flight during your pregnancy. Leave the rest to the capable and competent flight crew.

References: ACOG, 2001. ACOG News Release: ACOG Addresses Air Travel During Pregnancy. Joseph Banken, PhD - Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The article above was reproduced with the permission of Captain Stacey Chance who has helped many become more confident about flying with his free online Fear of Flying Help Course. The course has animations and videos to support it. Pregnant mothers may find it useful to view some of the videos as a preparation on what to expect. Those who experience anxiety while flying may find the entire course useful.

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  1. hi, pregnant and flying next week,,hehe i hope i ;ll be ok

  2. Hi Deana,
    Take care of yourself and enjoy your flight. :)


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