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Pregnancy And Flying

Q: How pregnant can one be and still be able to fly in an airplane? Are there health concerns? Are there airline standards?


Dr. Donnica:
According to new recommendations from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), healthy women with low-risk (i.e. "normal" or "uncomplicated") pregnancies can safely fly up until their 36th week, or one month prior to their due date. Women who should not fly at any time during their pregnancy are those at risk for complications or pre-term delivery, including women with poorly controlled diabetes, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, or sickle cell disease, which can be worsened by high altitude.

Airlines vary in their "rules", but usually cut you off at 32 to 36 weeks, often more for their protection than for yours. Of course, they can't actually "tell" how pregnant you are. Your best source to an individual answer to this question is your own physician. His or her answer will depend upon your health, the status of the pregnancy, the length of the flight, and the reason that you want or need to go.

In general, unless you have a specific medical condition preventing you from flying (e.g. preterm labor), the safety issues would be those related to fitting in the seats comfortably with a seat belt, and the barriers to getting off quickly in the event of an emergency. The biggest safety issue is not being able to get to a hospital or doctor in the event of labor or other medical problems for the duration of the flight -- plus transport time from the airport to the hospital (plus, with increased air traffic control problems, add the time that you will inevitably be delayed sitting on the runway).

Other pregnancy-related health issues include: the increased risk of dehydration and the increased risk of "Economy Class Syndrome" in which being seated for prolonged periods will increase your risk of blood clots. If you are going to fly while pregnant, be sure to drink lots of extra water, take frequent stretch breaks to stand and walk a bit, and request an aisle seat for those frequent trips to the rest room.

Best regards,
Donnica Moore MD
President, DrDonnica.com

Created: 8/14/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.
Reviewed: 12/14/2001  -  

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