Tag Archive for: travel while pregnant

Are you planning on traveling this holiday season? For many of us, this feels like the first, best opportunity to see loved ones after almost two years of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns. Here are some tips for flying or taking car rides while pregnant and with your newborn. 

No matter where you are traveling, consider getting vaccinated for COVID-19 if you are not already. USA Today recently reported that only 18% of pregnant people in the United States are vaccinated against COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and World Health Organization all recommend the COVID vaccine even during pregnancy. The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. 

Flying During Pregnancy

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) write that during healthy pregnancies, “occasional air travel is almost always safe.” Most domestic airlines allow pregnant people to fly until about 36 weeks of pregnancy, but international airlines may have different cut-offs. You should always consult with your healthcare provider and the airline before booking any travel. 

If you do choose to fly while pregnant this holiday season, you can do a number of things to make the flight more comfortable. First, book and aisle seat if possible. This way, you can get up and walk around more easily. Sitting for more than four hours increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms in your leg and can cause pulmonary embolism (when the blood clot gets stuck in your lung). Even when you are sitting, you can move your feet, toes, and legs to keep up circulation. 

You should also wear the seatbelt low across your hips, below the belly and avoid carbonated drinks. All domestic flights currently require masks during travel, and you should consider wearing an N95 or surgical mask, which offer the most protection against airborne pathogens like coronavirus. To stay hydrated, drink water. 

Taking Long Car Rides During Pregnancy 

Like flying, taking long car rides during pregnancy might feel uncomfortable. Wear loose-fitting clothing and layers that can be taken off or put on. You should also be drinking water and eating regular meals. Usually when we drive we want to get there as soon as possible, but remember to stop to use the bathroom and stretch your legs. Sitting in the car for extended amounts of time increases the risk of DVT and can just be uncomfortable. 

Even though a few hours-long car ride might not seem as noteworthy as flying somewhere, remember to speak to your care providers about where and how you are traveling. They may want to offer additional advice to keep you and baby safe. 

Flying with Newborn Baby

You should speak with your baby’s care provider before deciding to go on a flight. As uncomfortable as flying can be for us, it can be especially bad for newborns. Because their immune systems are still developing and planes are by nature crowded spaces, babies might be more susceptible to picking up a virus during a flight. 

The cabin pressure changes may also hurt baby’s ears. If you are traveling, let baby suck on something during takeoff and landing. And while we don’t always notice how loud a plane is, the engines and air circulation can be very loud for a baby’s new ears. Consider noise-cancelling headphones to protect their hearing. 

The level of oxygen inside an aircraft is also lower, and while this might be fine for some babies, talk to your doctor about any of baby’s heart or lung issues. 

And, although baby is allowed to be in your lap during the flight, best practice would be to purchase a seat for baby and to properly install their infant car seat (double checking for FAA approval). This gives you the mobility to get up and move around as well as a familiar place for baby to sleep. It also is by far, the safest way for baby to fly. 

Finally, make sure that you have everything your baby might need during the flight in an easily-accessible carry-on bag. 

Car Rides With a Newborn 

First, make sure that your car seat is properly installed [link to blog]. Like flying, you should also have everything baby needs in an easily-accessible bag. You or your partner may want to sit in the back seat with baby.

Before you leave, consider when and where you’ll be making stops along the way. Think about when your baby usually eats and where the best place to stop might be. Because of COVID, you may want to stop at a rest stop or picnic area rather than a restaurant. 

Be it for work trips or baby moons, flying during pregnancy presents a whole new world of details to consider. Walking through security and radiation exposure, the risk for increased swelling, and remaining well hydrated, are all concerns for pregnant people who use air travel at any stage of pregnancy. Here are some specific tips and additional things to consider before you plan and pack.

Flying, pregnancy, and the TSA:

If you have concerns about going through TSA’s security scanners because of exposure to x-rays, we’ve got good news. Their scanners do not use x-ray, but instead, use non-ionizing electromagnetic waves that get reflected off the body. They are considered perfectly safe for all passengers. However, you can still opt out of the scanner, and ask for a pat down instead. A female TSA agent will perform the search, and you can continue to your gate.

Also, you can ask for as much help for lifting, and getting through the line as you need. No one is labeling you a damsel in distress. Instead, how about a savvy flyer who knows what resources are available for use!

1st Trimester

Compression stockings/socks: can help reduce swelling of your lower extremities, and promote blood flow.
Nausea remedies: The change in elevation may cause internal gasses to expand, making your tummy even more vulnerable to sickness. Try having easy to digest foods, like crackers, available in your carry on to nibble throughout the flight. Some find relief from peppermint or ginger candies.

Radiation Exposure: there is some evidence that extreme exposure to radiation between the 8th and 15th week of pregnancy may affect IQ, but the level of inflight radiation is low. Unless you work in the airline industry, you will there is little risk for the average traveler, but it is something to be aware.

No one will feel bad for you: One of the hardest parts is the lack of empathy you will garner from most people. You will be tired, and everything will feel harder, and most people do not have external signs they are expecting.

2nd Trimester

In the second trimester, most are generally feeling better than they were in the 1st trimester, with more energy restored. At the beginning of your 2nd trimester, you may still not have any noticeable physical changes, whereas when you finish the 2nd trimester, you will most likely have grown considerably.

See compression socks above.

Snacks: While you may start to feel less nauseous, you will want to continue to carry snacks and water.
Getting up and moving while in flight will help with overall discomfort in your back, hips, and legs. If you are not permitted to stand or walk, try to stretch your arms up, move your back, and flex your calves and feet.

Airline Policy: Some more significant things to consider are your airline’s policies on traveling while pregnant, and possibly restricting yourself on destinations. Most pregnancies are considered viable after 24 weeks, so in the event of an unplanned birth, consider if the place you will travel to have the medical resources to support you and your babe until you are well enough to go home.

3rd Trimester

Check with Your Doctor: With all air travel, talking with your doctor is recommended, but in the 3rd trimester, it is especially important. Most physicians discuss limiting air travel at week 36, but your specific pregnancy may have particular needs that could restrict it earlier. If you are traveling between weeks 28- 36, be ready for lots of restroom breaks, low back pain, and fatigue creeping back in. To help with all that:

Bring a pillow:  And not a neck pillow. A real pillow. Having the ability to support your body in various ways on flights may seem like a luxury. If you can have get an aisle seat (even better if there is extra leg room), we recommend it. You won’t have to maneuver around as many for your trips to the restroom, and if the seatbelt sign goes off, merely standing and swaying will be a comfort.

Travel Insurance: Consider getting travel insurance during pregnancy. In the event, you need to get home, and you need to get home now, you will make arrangements without the additional pain of a hefty bill, or make cancellations should they be necessary.

Panty liners: it may have happened before the 3rd trimester, but you may be surprised by a small release of urine when you cough or sneeze. The pressure your bladder and pelvic floor are under in the 3rd trimester make minor incontinence a very common occurrence. Having extra protection is much more comfortable than needing to bring a complete change of clothes.

Whatever trimester you are in, you can stay safer and more comfortable while flying during pregnancy!