Nervous about flying while pregnant? Travelling with a bump might complicate things but it is still possible to have a relaxing trip if you follow a few simple guidelines.
Dr Vanessa Mackay, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, gives us the lowdown on flying while pregnant from the regulations to handy tips to make your trip as easy as possible.
For now, here’s all you need to know to have a safe and comfortable trip while pregnant…
Can I fly when pregnant?
It’s usually perfectly safe to fly during pregnancy. There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that flying in your third trimester increases the chances of early labour or your waters breaking. However, check with your doctor before flying if you have had any medical issues during your pregnancy such as spotting, diabetes, high blood pressure, excessive morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), a previous miscarriage or early birth.
At how many weeks pregnant is it safe to fly?
Guidelines from The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggest that it’s safest to travel before 37 weeks if you have a single pregnancy. "After that time, labour could occur at any time, so it’s unwise to fly," explains consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Vanessa Mackay. "If you’re pregnant with more than one baby, it’s wise to lower that limit to 32 weeks."
13 tips for flying while pregnant:
Ask your midwife for elastic compression socks for your flight. She will measure your legs and give you a pair that are far more suitable for use during pregnancy than the travel socks on sale in chemists. ‘These are particularly important for long-haul flights,’ says Dr Vanessa. When pregnant, slower circulation increases the risk of blood clots, which can travel to your lungs.
1) Wear a pair of compression socks
Check that your travel insurance covers you for pregnancy-related medical care. Apply for a free European Health Insurance Card if you’re travelling to Europe (visit ehic.org.uk). And take your maternity notes with you. ‘This is really important,’ says Dr Vanessa. ‘They’ll give any medical professional an accurate picture of your pregnancy.’
2) Pack your paperwork
If you’re particularly nervous about flying, take proactive steps to stay as calm as possible, both before and during the flight. The stress hormone cortisol can cross your placenta and affect your unborn baby. Snack on pumpkin seeds and bananas, both rich in tryptophan which helps your body produce melatonin and serotonin, boosting feelings of well-being. Massage is also a great stress buster, so ask your travel partner (if you have one) to rub your lower back.
3) Stay calm
The pressurised cabin on a plane can make you more dehydrated and lead to oedema (water retention in the lower limbs). Drink more than the recommended amount of 1.5 litres of fluid a day to counter it. ‘Aim to drink a full cup of water every hour,’ says Dr Vanessa. ‘Drink more if your mouth feels dry or you feel thirsty.’ Avoid drinks containing caffeine as these can dehydrate you. ‘But it’s not necessary to avoid salty foods, like peanuts or pretzels, as long as you’re drinking enough fluids,’ adds Dr Vanessa.
4) Drink plenty of fluids
Even if your morning sickness has subsided, it’s common to feel sick during a flight. ‘It’s just the motion that causes you to feel nauseous,’ says Dr Vanessa. Book a seat in the middle of the cabin, where you’ll experience less movement, And take a pack of ginger biscuits with you. Nibbling on one of them may help ease the nausea.
5) Try not to panic if you do feel sick
The muscles in your legs act as a pump to encourage the veins to empty upwards, so take regular walks along the aisle of the plane to keep these working. ‘When you’re sitting in your seat, circle your ankles and move your feet around every half an hour to help the blood flow,’ adds Dr Vanessa.
6) Walk down the aisle
Before you book your ticket, find out what the airline’s policy is for flying when pregnant. Check the airline’s website, or call its customer service help desk. If you’re over 28 weeks pregnant, most airlines require a letter from your midwife or doctor to say that your pregnancy is low-risk and healthy. This is simply an assurance that there’s little risk of you going into early labour or your waters breaking early.
7) Quiz your airline
Some airlines require a particular form to be completed. Some ask for medical reassurance from an earlier stage of pregnancy. Consider how pregnant you’ll be on your return flight – if you’re travelling in your 27th week of pregnancy, you might return after your 28th week.
Make sure to adjust your seatbelt properly and position it under your bump across your pelvis. You can always ask the cabin crew for a seatbelt extender if it is too small as these are usually kept on board.
Wear layers so that you can keep warm but take them off if you are cool. Wear loose-fitting clothes so that you will feel comfortable and always choose comfortable shoes as this will also help with swelling.
9) Wear loose fitting clothes
When sat down on the flight, stretch your leg out and gently flex your foot to stretch your calf muscles. Rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes to promote good circulation. You can also roll your shoulders and stretch your neck by dropping your ear to your shoulder. Sit in an aisle seat if you can as it will make it easier to get up and wander around or to get to the toilet quickly!
Planes are often breeding grounds for colds and germs. When you are pregnant you are even more vulnerable to catching something. Arm yourself against germs by using hand sanitizer or wipes to clean the surfaces around your seat. In extreme cases some mums might wear a surgical mask to prevent the spread.
11) Protect yourself against germs
Mint tea and ginger tea are great for nausea. You can take teabags with you in your hand luggage and the flight attendants can make them for you. You can either bring tea bags or take some fresh mint/grated ginger to pop in hot water.
12) Drink mint or ginger tea
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