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Should Pregnant Women Fly?

Is it safe for a pregnant woman to travel by air? According to some new guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) the answer is yes--with a few caveats.

This week, the group released the first update of its guidelines on air travel for pregnant women since 2001, and for the first time addresses concerns about exposure to cosmic radiation during flights.

According to the guidelines, the longest intercontinental flights will expose passengers to no more than 15 percent of the recommended limit of cosmic radiation exposure set by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and the International Commission on Radiological Protection. While women who work as part of flight crews or are frequent fliers may exceed the recommended exposure limit, that would not be the case for most women, the group concludes.

If you want to measure your exposure, you can use this online tool from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Women who have medical or obstetric conditions that may be worsened by air travel or that could require emergency care should not fly while pregnant, ACOG says. Most airlines allow pregnant women to fly up to 36 weeks of gestation, but women should check with individual carriers to be sure.

Anyone who travels by air should take steps to minimize the risk of blood clots, especially during long flights, by wearing support stockings, moving their legs periodically, avoiding restrictive clothing, getting out their seat and walking for a few minutes, and staying hydrated, ACOG notes.

Pregnant women should use their seatbelts continuously while seated to prevent the risk of getting knocked around during severe turbulence. They may also want to avoid "gas-producing foods or drinks, such as carbonated soda," before a fight because gas trapped in the stomach expands as altitude increases, "which can cause discomfort," ACOG says.

By Rob Stein  |  September 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Motherhood , Travel Health  
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Posted by: dsmithbarrow | September 24, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Of course, I'd expect women are putting themselves and their pregnancy at FAR more risk each time they get into a car. But since there always seems to be a question of which activities pregnant women can/should do, this was an interesting article.

Posted by: DupontJay | September 24, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

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