Flying when pregnant: What you should know before taking off

Make sure you know the rules of safe air travel during pregnancy.

By Jodi Di Menna
flying when pregnant Photo: iStockphoto

For women with uncomplicated pregnancies, plane travel is safe up to 34 weeks, says Griff Jones, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at the Ottawa hospital. But certain conditions could put the brakes on plane travel for some women. Here's what moms-to-be should be aware of before taking off:

Blood clots: During pregnancy, you’re more prone to blood clots in your legs due to restricted blood flow in the veins around the pelvis (caused by pregnancy weight and hormones that dilate the veins). Dehydration from a plane’s dry environment and being immobilized in a cramped seat can increase the risk. Even if you haven’t had blood clots before, it’s a good idea to drink lots of water, wear compression stockings and walk the aisle every hour.

High blood pressure: Pregnant women with high blood pressure should also be cautious about air travel. High blood pressure is associated with suboptimal blood supply to the fetus, and at 30,000 feet, the concentration of oxygen in the air is lower, which means both mother and baby are getting less oxygen. For a fetus whose blood flow is already compromised, this could be dangerous. Women who delivered early with a prior pregnancy are at higher risk of delivering pre-term again, Jones says. “You don’t want to deliver somewhere unfamiliar, or on the plane.”To avoid this, plan your trip as early in your pregnancy as possible.

Ask the right questions: Jones advises that pregnant women with these conditions should talk to their doctors before flying. You should also consult with your insurance company before booking—some travel policies don’t cover care required for pregnancy complications in a foreign country. And check the airline’s policy: Most discourage women from flying late in their pregnancy, with the cut-off ranging between 32 and 38 weeks. Some airlines require a doctor’s note. The second trimester is usually the best bet for a babymoon—your nausea may have eased, you won’t be as uncomfortable in a tiny airplane seat, and you won’t be worried about going into labour. Jet away for some R and R now before your new arrival requires you to stay grounded for a while.


Originally posted in May 2012. 

This article was originally published on May 29, 2014

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