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Air Travel During Pregnancy

In the old days, many obstetricians wouldn’t let a pregnant woman travel at all – much less endure the strain and stress of air travel. Today, there are too many demands on a family and on individuals to have that strict a ban on patients, and they wouldn’t likely follow the directions anyway. However, there are several steps you can take that will make travel less stressful and as easy as possible.

As in all things, be reasonable. If you’re within fifteen to thirty days of your due date, don’t get on a plane. There’s a realistic chance that, if you do, the airline staff will get to know you a lot more intimately than either of you might be comfortable with. And do you really want to answer the question, “Mommy, where was I born?” with, “Flight 521”?

That said, there are some circumstances that demand that you travel by air. One of the best allies that you have in this endeavor is the airline themselves – involve them from the moment you buy the ticket.

Policies on pregnant women traveling differ from airline to airline, so make sure you know them well before you book your ticket. Some airlines require a letter of clearance from your doctor if you’re traveling in late pregnancy – they’ll be glad to tell you what they need when you book the ticket.

Be sure to request a seat that isn’t on an exit row, which will be easier for the flight crew and for you too. Get a bulkhead seat, if at all possible. There will be more room for you there, making you more comfortable on the flight. If you have the money to spring for first class, do so. Ask the airline about getting an upgrade and ask your friends if they have miles or upgrades they’re willing to donate to help you get an upgrade.

Also, be sure to have a long conversation with your physician about air sickness – especially if it’s something you’re prone too. There are some traditional remedies that aren’t going to be an option for you at this time, so stock up on the lemon drops and other safer options.

And even if it’s a fairly short flight, take every opportunity to move around. Blood clots in the lower legs are a possibility and a bit of in-flight activity is the best way to avoid them.

Remember that the air on a plane can be very dehydrating. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight. In addition, take a few healthy snacks with you so that you won't be at the mercy of salted nuts, salted pretzels and bland airplane food.

As your pregnancy moves forward, bathrooms become more and more important. However, on a plane, your access may be limited. Try to adopt a policy of aggressive use of the bathrooms – go each time you can, whether you think you can or not. This way, a bit of turbulence or a landing won’t turn into an accident waiting to happen. You might also consider the insurance of wearing an incontinence pad in your underwear.

Finally, one of the biggest hassles for all air travelers is security. The rules can change rapidly and the airlines have little choice but to grin and bear it. However, they will be glad to advise you about the best ways to approach them. At the very least, you should plan to be at the airport at least an hour ahead of your domestic flight. Do ask if pregnant mothers can go through security in the same manner as handicapped travelers. You can also call ahead and ask about reserving a wheelchair to get you to and from your gate if you have problems walking long distances.

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