Is It Safe to Fly During the First Trimester?

With the proper precautions, flying during the first trimester of pregnancy is perfectly safe. Here's what pregnant people should know about air travel during early pregnancy.

Are you worried that an early pregnancy will spoil your already-booked vacation? Raul Artal, M.D., vice chairman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) committee on obstetric practice, says not to stress. "In the absence of a reasonable expectation for obstetric or medical complications, air travel is safe up to 36 weeks gestation," he says. "Pregnant women can observe the same basic precautions for air travel as the general public."

Common Myths About Pregnancy and Air Travel

The first trimester is an especially low-risk time to travel during pregnancy. Contrary to popular belief, noise vibration, cosmic radiation, and cabin pressure create no increased risks for the pregnant air traveler, according to the ACOG. And if you were concerned that security equipment could radiate or somehow hurt your baby, set those fears aside. "Metal detectors are not a risk to the baby," Dr. Artal says.

Tips for Flying During Early Pregnancy

Below are a few more travel tips for the first trimester.

Check your health before you go

Travel isn't recommended for those with high-risk pregnancy conditions (hypertension, sickle-cell disease, history of premature labor, placental abnormalities such as placenta previa, etc.) Pregnant people with preexisting medical conditions (like heart disease) should also check with their doctor before flying.

Move around

One issue of concern for all air passengers—pregnant or not—is the formation of blood clots, or thrombosis, especially during long flights. Pregnant travelers should take special precautions to minimize risks. Try wearing support stockings and/or moving your lower extremities every half-hour or so. "Wiggle your toes," Dr. Artal suggests, "Move your legs around, and take a stroll up the cabin every once in a while."

Book a comfortable seat

The aisle seat will make it easier to get up frequently for restroom trips or walking through the cabin. The bulkhead seats, which are located right behind a dividing wall between cabins, tend to have the most legroom. If you're concerned about a bumpy ride, try choosing a seat over a wing, which will give you the smoothest flight.

Buckle up

Make sure you buckle up, keeping the seatbelt low on the hips and under the belly. The ACOG cautions that flying can be unpredictable when it comes to severe turbulence, which can cause injury. Therefore, it is wise to buckle up and remain buckled while seated throughout the entire flight.

Stay hydrated

The cabin of an aircraft has low humidity, which can cause anyone to have a dry nose and throat. Make sure to drink water throughout the flight to avoid dehydration.

Prevent air sickness

Morning sickness and fatigue often kick in around seven to eight weeks of pregnancy. Ask your prenatal health care provider for tips to help with nausea, and inquire about safe anti-nausea medication to take with you, just in case.

Don't drink or eat gas-producing items

Try to avoid consuming food and drinks that are known to cause gas (such as beans, cruciferous vegetables, and carbonated beverages) before or during your flight. Entrapped gas expands at higher altitudes and can give you a stomachache.

Prepare for digestion problems

You may want to ask your doctor about diarrhea medications or remedies that are safe to use during pregnancy, especially if you are traveling internationally, which can elevate the risk of exposure to bacteria that can cause diarrhea.

Consider updating your vaccinations

Depending on where your final destination is, you may be required to be vaccinated against certain diseases, especially if you're traveling internationally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a travel vaccine and medication guide that covers travel-related diseases you can be inoculated against from food-borne illnesses to influenza.

Plan ahead

Always tell your provider about your plans before booking your trip. Depending on your travel plans, you may need to pre-book a prenatal appointment at your destination. Educate yourself on hospitals located near where you will be staying while traveling, and purchase travel insurance.

Check on travel advisories

Before flying anywhere, it is worth checking for any health or travel advisories that could pose a risk to pregnant travelers. The CDC compiles up-to-date data on travel health advisories as well as other safety information for countries around the globe. You can easily look up your destination and check to make sure that there are not any health alerts that could put you or your pregnancy at risk.

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