New pregnancy guidelines say women safe to fly up to 37 weeks

Women could fly safely up to week 37 of their pregnancy provided they walk around the plane to avoid the dangers of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) on long-haul trips. By walking in such a fashion, they will reduce the risk of blood clots, which can be life-threatening, according to the latest advice.

New Guidance on flying and pregnancy

New Guidance on flying and pregnancy. Image by J.K. Califf / CC BY 2.0

The Daily Mail reports that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists confirms in new guidance on the issue that neither mother nor baby in straightforward pregnancies will be harmed while flying.

Now updated for the first time since 2011, the guidance also says the introduction of security scanners at airports don’t pose a health risk to either pregnant women or their unborn babies.

Pregnant women urged to walk the aisles on long-haul flights

Pregnant women urged to walk the aisles on long-haul flights Image by Frankie Roberto / CC BY 2.0

The guidance emphasises a number of tips to minimize the risk of blood clots when pregnant women are flying non-stop for over four hours.

There is a higher risk of DVT during late pregnancy and for up to six weeks after giving birth. If a clot travels to the lungs it can be life-threatening, says the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidance.

Because continuous sitting can cause problems on long-haul flights, the guidance advises women to take walks around the aisles on a regular basis; it also suggests doing in-seat exercise every half hour and wearing graduated elastic compression stockings.

It further advises women in this condition to drink water regularly during the flight while cutting down on alcohol and caffeine intake.

The information leaflet highlights the fact that anyone who flies is exposed to a slight increase in radiation. However they make a distinction by pointing out that occasional flights are not a risk to mother or baby.

A number of airlines don’t allow women to travel after week 36 of pregnancy. There are tighter restrictions for those carrying twins or other multiple births with advice that they should only be allowed to fly after 28 weeks if they are issued with a certificate from their doctor.

The chairman of the RCOG’s Patient Information Committee, Philippa Marsden stressed that it was important for a woman to discuss any health problems with suitable medical staff before flying.


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