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Air Travel - tips and precautions

In general if you have a normal pregnancy, traveling across different time zones should not be an issue. However pregnancy fatigue can become a problem but it is something you will have to cope with. Prior to making any traveling plans, especially long haul, you should check with your doctor and get his okay. This is very important!

The middle trimester is the best time to travel because:

  • You don't feel as queasy
  • There isn't much chance of you going into labor
  • Your energy levels are high
  • You are not that big yet

Normal pregnancy and yet the discomforts

  • A long haul flight will multiply the prevailing discomforts and side-effects you have, such as fluid retention and puffiness.
  • More importantly, long periods of cramped inactivity on planes can raise the chances of a dangerous blood clot known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This condition affects not only pregnant women but all travelers of long haul flights.
  • It is not safe to travel in an unpressurized aircraft during this time due to lack of oxygen. Large planes all have pressurized cabins but smaller planes may not. Check with your agent. FYI oxygen levels can fluctuate even in pressurized cabins so if you feel lightheaded, don't hesitate to ask the flight attendant for some oxygen.

When traveling is a sure NO

Most airlines refuse bookings from pregnant women during the last 4-5 weeks of pregnancy to safeguard against the possibility of women delivering prematurely while on board. Restrictions and medical concerns differ from airline to airline. Check on the requirements in advance. Most airlines expect some form of surety:

  • A letter from your GP stating you are fit for travel
  • Or a certificate of pregnancy

Your due date must be stated on this chit. Your doctor will definitely advise you against travel if you have the following conditions:

  • Placenta previa
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Severe preeclampsia
  • Recent vaginal bleeding

Your doctor may restrict your travel if you had previous pregnancy complications:

  • You delivered prematurely in your previous pregnancy
  • You had placental abruption in a previous pregnancy
  • You have a low lying placenta
  • You underwent a recent invasive procedure such as amniocentesis
  • Multiple pregnancy
  • You experience increased uterine contraction

Before you fly..

  • Carry a large bottle of mineral water with you all the time; keep sipping while you are waiting to board. Keep dehydration, which you are very prone to, at bay.
  • Invest in some support stockings - these will reduce the risk of blood clots
  • Choose to wear slip-on shoes that are roomy and comfy with thin socks. Your feet tend to swell up in flight
  • Empty your bladder before boarding in case of delay in take off, or if the seat belt sign stays on a long time.
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Have some glucose sweets to help prevent nausea caused by low blood sugar
  • Buy a top-grade travel insurance that includes full medical costs
  • Carry with you a brief medical history including your blood group and allergies and maternity notes, if any
  • Book an aisle seat near the front of the aircraft so that you have no problems frequenting the loo and getting on and off the plane. You won't feel too much of the plane's motion if your seat is towards the front of the plane.
  • If it is a short trip, limit yourself to hand luggage to save having to wait on arrival

When on board..

  • Check on food options: request for vegetarian or low-fat meals as these are less nauseating and better for you
  • Get the flight attendant to help you with your hand luggage
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks; stick to plenty of water, diluted fruit juices and milk. Bring your own healthy snacks and drink in case of long flights or delays
  • Take plenty of walk and stretch breaks: since your joints and ligaments are more supple when you are pregnant, you are more prone to backaches. Regular movement will help deal with this.
  • When you are sitting down, keep your circulation active by stretching and moving your arms and legs; elevate, flex and rotate your feet.
  • If your shoes are easy to remove, slip them off; if the seat next to yours is unoccupied, put your feet up.
  • Eat and drink small amounts frequently to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Your bag essentials..

  • Don't forget tissues which you may need for the unexpected runny nose or as toilet paper, ear plugs, eye mask
  • Leave all your high heels behind
  • Put all cosmetics, toiletries etc in small bottles or get sachet sized samples if possible. Carry a light load
  • Pack light, versatile clothes.
  • Finally, don't forget your travel documents, insurance and doctor's letter. Bon Voyage!

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Disclaimer: Information contained on this Web site is intended solely to make available general summarized information to the public. It should not be substituted for medical advice. It is your responsibility to consult with your pediatrician and/or health care provider before acting on any advice on this web site. While OEM endeavors to provide up-to-date and accurate information, it is not liable for any advice whatsoever rendered nor is it liable for the completeness or timeliness of any information on this site.
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