Is it safe to travel by airplane during my first trimester?

Q: I am currently 6 weeks pregnant and will be traveling abroad in my eighth week. I am really concerned about long flights. What are the risks? Is there any special care I should be aware of?

A: Air travel is very safe during pregnancy.  There is no radiation risk, the X-ray machines are actually glorified metal detectors and are very safe to walk through (as are the full body scanners) and all cabins are pressurized.  The first trimester is a great time to travel, except that morning sickness and fatigue often kick in around 7 to 8 weeks, so be prepared.  You may feel great when you book your trip, but terrible by the time you leave.  Ask your practitioner for tips to help with nausea, as ask for safe anti-nausea medication to take with you, just in case.

The only real risk of a long flight is a DVT (deep venous thrombosis) or blood clot.  This is a risk for all travelers on long flights, but pregnant women are at higher risk.  To help prevent this from happening, see the tips below. Below are a few travel tips to pregnant women on the go:

1. Book an Aisle Seat - It's easier access for your hourly walks and trips to the restroom.

2. Prevent Air Sickness - If you are still in the morning sickness phase of pregnancy, air travel may make things worse. Ask your practitioner for an anti-nausea medication to take with you.

3. Wear Pantyhose - Some practitioners recommend that you wear support stockings to increase circulation and prevent a blood clot from developing in your leg.

4. Take a Walk - Avoid being immobilized for long periods of time. Being pregnant means you are at higher risk of developing a blood clot in your leg that can potentially travel to your lungs. Stretch your calves periodically while you are seated and walk the aisle once an hour if you are on a long flight.

5. Drink Water - You'll feel better by being well hydrated. It also helps prevent those blood clots. Take an empty water bottle with you in carry-on luggage and fill it up after you get through security.

6. Go Gas Free - Don't drink or eat any gas-producing items (carbonated beverages, refried beans, etc.) before or during your flight. Entrapped gas expands at higher altitudes and can give you a stomachache. Avoiding these foods also prevents burping and gas passing next to a stranger who can't escape!

Other tips: - Always tell your practitioner about your plans before booking your trip. - Educate yourself on hospitals located at your destination, just in case. - Purchase travel insurance and in the case of a boat/cruise, evacuation insurance (like MedJet Assist).


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