Travel During Pregnancy
In December 2001, the American College of Ob/Gyn issues a report on the safety of airplane travel while pregnant. They felt that low-risk patients could safely fly as late as 36 weeks of pregnancy (35 weeks for international flights). Traveling is discouraged if the patient has been diagnosed with pregnancy complications.
We use a cut-off of 32 weeks (I guess I am more cautious than ACOG!)
The airplane cabin is slightly depressurized, equal to being at an altitude of about 6,000 to 8,000 feet elevation. This will rarely cause symptoms such as thirst, nausea or headache (which can all be relieved by breathing oxygen). It is advised to avoid drinking carbonated beverages before flying as the gas can expand after take-off causing some abdominal cramping.
Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis
During long flights, it is important to be active periodically. Prolonged immobilization can increase the risk of a rare complication known as a deep vein thrombosis. This is when a blood clot forms in the lower leg. The clot can then travel to the lungs and rarely (extremely rarely) cause serious injury, even death.
Prevention includes walking for a few minutes (and also use the restroom to help prevent bladder infection) about every 2 hours. Additionally, pregnant women should always wear their seatbelts while sitting on the plane. Lastly, ASK FOR AN AISLE SEAT.
Here are some issues to consider:
- If traveling by car more than 2 hours, the same issue above pertains regarding the risks of prolonged sitting. Therefore, every 2 hours, take a break, walk around and use the restroom to help prevent bladder infection.
- Cruise Lines do not allow pregnant women after 28 weeks.
- Consider the availability of proper medical attention at your destination or while en route. For example, avoid driving across the desert in summer (such as to Las Vega$) because if you have car trouble, you may be stuck in the heat for a long time. Also avoid going to exotic, remote places that do not have good obstetrical medical care readily available.
- During the final 2 months of pregnancy, we advise being within a 2 hour drive of our office and Huntington Hospital.