• It is safe during a healthy pregnancy to travel via air. You should discuss any trip with your Obstetrician before booking to be sure that s/he does not have any concerns about your pregnancy and flying.

    Most airlines will require written permission from your Obstetrician if you are traveling past your eighth month. And if you look like you are eight months pregnant during your sixth month (it happens!) be prepared to show documentation of your due date from your doctor. Check with the airline before booking to be sure you know what their most up-to-date requirements are, and make a note of the person you speak with and the date/time of your call for future reference.

    When to travel
    Although it is safe to travel at any point during pregnancy (with your Obstetrician’s permission), it is most comfortable to travel (and do most other things) during your second trimester. You are over the morning sickness (hopefully!) and not yet feeling large and uncomfortable.

    Airport Screening Machines
    The typical old-fashioned screening machines use low frequency electromagnetic fields to screen for metal objects. These are not the same as x-ray radiation and are safe to go through during pregnancy.
    The wands that airport security personnel may use to screen passengers also use low frequency electromagnetic fields and are considered safe during pregnancy.
    Body scanning machines now being used in many airports are more controversial. There are two types. The first, a ‘millimeter wave machine’, uses electromagnetic fields to create an image and are safe. The second type uses a ‘backscatter’ to create an image and this involves low dose radiation. A properly functioning machine should use a very low and relatively safe level of radiation. The controversy is regarding the potential of a malfunctioning machine. Because of this controversy many pregnant women choose to request a pat-down and wand screening. Discuss this with your Obstetrician before you travel so that you have a plan in place before you reach the front of the security checkpoint line.

    Some things to keep you safer and more comfortable during your flight

    1. Choose an aisle seat. You will need to get up to stretch…and use the bathroom…more than usual and an aisle seat is the easiest to get in and out of.
    2. Do not sit in the row in front of an exit row. These seats do not recline, but the ones in front of this row do, leading to an extra-small space to travel in.
    3. Keep your seatbelt buckled whenever you are in your seat and have it lay on your lap below your stomach on the tops of your thighs.
    4. Get up and move at least once every hour to keep your blood circulating and help to prevent blood clots.
    5. Drink plenty of fluids so that you don’t become dehydrated. This will also help you with step #4 because plenty of liquid means plenty of walking to the bathroom!

    Items to Bring on the Flight

    1. A note from your Obstetrician giving you permission to travel and stating your due date.
    2. A copy of your pre-natal records in case you need to seek medical care during your trip.
    3. A copy of your insurance information.
    4. Prenatal vitamins, folic acid, and any medications you are taking.
    5. An empty water bottle – once you are on the plane you can ask a stewardess to fill it for you. The little plastic cups don’t quite do the job and you won’t want to keep the tray in front of you down for the whole flight.
    6. Healthy snacks – dried fruit, nuts, protein bars. Include high fiber snacks to help prevent constipation.
    7. Tea bags – peppermint or ginger – whatever work best for you in case of nausea.

    Do Not Board a Flight and contact your doctor if you have the following:

    1. Vaginal Bleeding.
    2. Watery vaginal discharge – be sure that this is not amniotic fluid leakage.
    3. Visual Changes – Blurred vision, spots or bright flashes.
    4. Swelling around your eyes, or of your arms/hands/legs or feet.
    5. Abdominal Cramping.
    6. Less or No feeling of baby movement in your abdomen.

    -Monique Araya, MD, FAAP

    The medical information on this Web site is provided for educational purposes only. The information provided in this site, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.
    If you believe you have a medical emergency you should call 911 or your physician immediately. If you have any questions regarding your health or a medical condition, you should promptly consult your physician.