When you're pregnant, you want to do everything possible to safeguard your baby. But sometimes a girl has to get up and go -- and that might mean flying up into the wild blue yonder. You might have concerns about the effects of flying on your baby, but in most cases, as long as you're flying on a commercial plane, you don't need to worry.
1. Oxygen and Flying
When you fly in a pressurized cabin, the air you breathe contains a normal amount of oxygen, but the barometric pressure is lower than normal, unless you live at a high elevation and have adapted to it. Most planes are pressurized to the equivalent of 8,000 feet, which means that less oxygen enters your bloodstream, according to "USA Today." If you have no respiratory or cardiac issues, this won't cause you or your baby any harm. Your heart often beats faster to compensate. If you do have respiratory or cardiac issues, ask your doctor about flying. Fly only in pressurized planes; while the lower oxygen levels in unpressurized planes is probably safe for your baby, who lives with lower oxygenation levels than you do, you might become lightheaded, AskDrSears.com warns.
The air inside airline cabins is very dry; you can easily become dehydrated, unless you drink enough liquid before and during the flight. Dehydration can start uterine contractions, which can lead to preterm labor, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Decreased fluid intake and delaying emptying your bladder can also lead to bladder infections, which can irritate the uterus, causing contractions and preterm labor.
3. Blood Clots
Blood clots pose a serious threat to your life and your baby's. During pregnancy, blood in the lower legs has more difficulty returning to the heart and is more likely to flow sluggishly. When you can't move your legs well for several hours, you're at higher risk for developing blood clots. If a clot breaks loose and travels to your heart or lungs, it can be life-threatening. Remedy this by stretching your legs frequently; sit in an aisle seat, if possible, to make it easier to move around occasionally on a long flight. Consider wearing support hose to increase circulation in the legs, suggests The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
4. Cosmic Radiation
Cosmic radiation is an invisible but potentially harmful threat if you fly frequently, not only during pregnancy but beforehand, since high doses of radiation can damage eggs and cause birth defects. The National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements and the International Commission on Radiological Protection recommend that pregnant women limit radiation exposure to1 millisievert (100 rem) during pregnancy. A very long flight exposes you to around 15 percent of that amount, ACOG states, so if you're a frequent flyer, talk to your doctor about limiting your exposure.
5. Seat Belts
Turbulence occurs without warning; keep your seat belt on while sitting in your seat, even if the seat belt sign is turned off. Wear the belt low, across your hips and pelvis and below your abdomen.
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Air Travel During Pregnancy
- Canadian Family Physician: Is Air Travel in Pregnancy Safe?
- Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association: Flying for Two
- AskDrSears: Traveling While Pregnant
- USA Today: Do Passengers Get Enough Oxygen?
- American Pregnancy Association: Premature Labor
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