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Pregnancy Q&As

  1. Expert: Dr. Marjorie Greenfield
    August 11th, 2008
    Is flying harmful during pregnancy?

    For most women with a normal, healthy and low-risk pregnancy, travel is fine and is a fact of life. But there are a few things you should know before packing your bags:

    1. The most stable part of pregnancy is from approximately 12 weeks to about 20 to 24 weeks and it's also when you're most likely to be feeling your best-so this is usually a good time to plan a trip. Just remember to check in with your doctor or midwife before going away, just so they're aware that you're leaving and can give you the all-clear.

    2. On long trips when you're not moving, there's an increased risk of blood clots in your legs so it's important to get up and take a 10-minute walk every two or three hours. (And, if you're driving, that means getting out of the car for 10 minutes every two to three hours-usually your bladder requires that you do that anyway!)

    3. People sometimes worry about radiation exposure when traveling by plane. If you're doing a tremendous amount of flying, there may be some amount of radiation exposure, but for most people it isn't an issue.

    4. You may not want to be too far from home in your first trimester if you haven't seen your pregnancy on ultrasound or heard a heartbeat. (Early on, most women have a 15 to 30 percent chance of miscarriage, depending on their age and other risk factors, so they may not want to travel somewhere where there is less guarantee of finding quality medical care.)

    5. You may also not want to be too far from home in your third trimester, especially if you're showing signs of preterm labor or have any risk factors for early delivery. If you end up going into labor early, you could be stuck in a foreign city with a newborn who needs to spend a few weeks in intensive care. It's important to talk to your doctor about whether it's advisable for you to go away and, if you do decide to travel, take a copy of your medical records with you.

    6. If you need to travel later in your pregnancy, be sure to contact the airline regarding its cutoff policy. (For instance, all American Airlines and Air Canada flights allow pregnant women to fly up to and including 36 weeks, after which air travel is only allowed for short flights, under special circumstances and must be cleared by the airline's medical desk with a note from your doctor saying that you're fit to travel.)

    7. If you're planning a visit to an exotic location, make sure your immunizations are up to date and be sure to check with your doctor and consult a travel medical specialist well in advance of your trip.
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    Marjorie Greenfield, M.D. is a practicing board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). She is currently associate professor on the  full-time faculty at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Her new book, The Working Woman's Pregnancy Book, hit the bookshelves in May. marjoriegreenfield.com