Many people experience anxiety when they travel on airplanes. Between security checks, luggage limits, and the occasional plane crash, there’s plenty to be worried about. Of course, in reality air travel is very safe and so common these days that it’s practically routine. In fact, many people fly a few times a week, commuting to and from jobs in other cities (not to mention the people who work as pilots and flight attendants). However, whether you’re a nervous flyer or a flight veteran, things are bound to be a bit different if you find yourself on an airplane during your pregnancy.
Although flying during pregnancy is generally considered safe, there are a few things that you should know ahead of time, just to make your life a little easier:
(1) If you’re flying during your first trimester and you’ve been struggling with morning sickness, be prepared to be even more nauseous than usual thanks to changes in cabin pressure and the rocking, up-and-down movement of the airplane. Taking medication may help with this. Women have also found that wearing special bracelets that put pressure on certain points in their wrist have helped keep morning sickness at bay while flying. (These bracelets are available at your local pharmacy.) If your morning sickness is very bad, you may want to sit near one of the lavatories located on the plane so you aren’t forced to be sick in your seat or run up and down the aisles. If you already have an assigned seat that’s located in another part of the plane, the attendant at the counter near your gate may be able to assist you in changing your seat assignment if you explain your situation.
(2) If you’re flying during your second trimester, you’ll probably be comfortable for the most part, although you may experience back pain and numbness in your hips from sitting in one position for so long. To help alleviate this, get up often and try to walk around a little bit. You can also get compression stockings, which are recommended by doctors when you’re flying during pregnancy since they reduce the risk of blood clots. Both flying and pregnancy increases your risk of blood clots, so if you have a genetic predisposition for this condition or if you’ve had blood clots before, you’ll definitely want to look into compression stockings.
(3) If you’re flying during your third trimester, be sure to have a note from your doctor that says that you’re safe to fly. Airlines prohibit women from flying too late in their pregnancies because they don’t want to deal with the occasional passenger giving birth at 20,000 feet. Since it can be hard to tell exactly how pregnant a woman is just by looking at her, airline employees will stop you from getting on the plane unless you can prove that you’re early enough in your pregnancy to fly and that you have your doctor’s permission to do so. (This isn’t usually necessary until the 3rd trimester, but if you’re carrying multiples you may need to do this in your 2nd trimester as well.) Be sure to move around once you’re on the plane to avoid numbness, leg cramps, and decrease your risk of blood clots. If you start to have any problems (contractions, for example), alert a flight attendant.
(4) Regardless of when you fly during your pregnancy, it’s likely that you are eligible to pre-board your airplane. If it’s very early in your pregnancy, you probably won’t need to take advantage of this perk, but as time goes on it can be nice to have a few extra moments to get yourself on the plane and settled before the rush hits. If you’re flying an airline like Southwest which doesn’t provide seat assignments, pre-boarding will ensure that you and your party can fly together, which can be a lifesaver if you start to feel unwell or uncomfortable during the flight.
(5) Be sure to drink plenty of water! This means paying too much for water in the airport, most likely, but it will be worth it. You’re going to be more dehydrated than usual because you’re pregnant and staying hydrated can prevent dizziness, hot flashes, nosebleeds, air sickness, and headaches. You will be able to ask the flight attendant for water once on the flight, but they don’t usually serve drinks for the first twenty minutes and it may be hard to continually get the attention of an attendant to get a refill. Spend the money, buy a big bottle of water, and chug chug chug!