I’m not one of those mothers who loved being pregnant. Sure, the end result is pretty awesome, but the whole “8-pound-human-laying-on-my-lungs” part?
Not so much.
Not to mention all the doctors. Oy, the doctors! I was sitting in my obstetrician’s office when I wrote this, waiting for the vampire, er, lovely woman from the lab to take 100 vials of my precious life’s blood. Why do they need so much of it? Why, I ask!
Good times, people, good times.
Traveling with an extra human inside your body isn’t exactly a cakewalk, either. When I moved a few years ago to the Midwest from the East Coast (and no, I’m still not over it), I promised my family and myself that I’d visit them in New York as often as possible.
And last year, I did. I traveled solo through O’Hare International Airport seven or eight times, my then 2-year-old in tow. It wasn’t easy, but at least I could stash the kid in her stroller and make a run for it when our connections were tight.
When I was pregnant with my son? With an extra mumble-mumble pounds around my middle?
Let’s just say I was officially grounded. Which wasn’t easy—especially since my biggest pregnancy craving was bagels. Do you know how hard it is to get a decent bagel in the Midwest?
(I kid, I kid.)
Pregnant Precautions for Air Travel
I may not be one of them, but there are plenty of brave souls out there willing to board an airplane while gestating. However, being pregnant is a medical condition. While in most cases those nine months go off without a hitch, there are some precautions all pregnant women should take into account before they print that boarding pass.
Tips for Flying While Pregnant
Flying while pregnant is perfectly safe—when you take the proper precautions. Always ask your doctor before flying to discuss your travel plans. Here a few other tips to keep in mind when you fly while pregnant:
- The best time to fly is in your second trimester. Avoid traveling after the 32-week mark.
- Get out of your seat regularly to walk and stretch your limbs. Keep your blood pumping to prevent clots and avoid developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Stay hydrated. Buy bottled water after you pass through security.
- Stick to short flights and avoid overseas travel.
- Bring a copy of your medical records with you.
- Flying during your first trimester may be uncomfortable and nauseating, but is quite safe, according to medical experts.
Dr. Jennifer Ahn is an associate professor of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, and she says that, for the most part, air travel is safe for those of us who are knocked up. Just make sure you plan to stay home beginning at month eight.
“The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines usually state that women should not travel after 36 weeks,” Ahn says, “mainly because the changes in air pressure (on a plane) could send you into labor.”
Get Up, Stand Up
Ahn adds that pregnant women are generally at a higher risk for blood clots during long-term travel, and that you need to make a concerted effort to get out of your seat and keep your blood pumping.
Dr. Riva Rahl concurs with Ahn. A staff physician at the Cooper Clinic, a preventative medicine center in Dallas, Texas, Rahl says that hormonal changes in pregnancy increase your odds of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
“Stasis is a risk factor for DVT, so getting up and moving around will lessen the risk,” Rahl says. “Some women choose to wear compression stockings to avoid swelling in the legs, particularly more problematic when flying.”
Ah, support hose. Pregnancy is just so sexy, no?
Take a walk around the plane, Rahl adds, or at least try to move your legs around while you’re seated. I do some simple leg exercises every time I fly, just to be on the safe side. I contract and relax my calf, thigh and gluteus (heh heh) muscles 10 minutes for every hour I’m in the air.
Then I tell myself that I can eat that extra chocolate chip cookie. After all, I’m exercising, right?
Some pregnant women are at an even higher risk for clotting based on their genetics, Ahn says, and she advises all mothers-to-be to consult with their doctors before they fly, especially if their medical history puts them in the high-risk category. You can even be at risk for clotting for several weeks after the baby is born.