Air travel can be hard enough without being pregnant. Dry air, dehydration and fatigue are just some of the things that your body already has to deal with when you're not pregnant, let alone while you’re pregnant and your body is more sensitive to these things.
I recently flew from NYC to Sydney… with my 18-month old son… without my husband… and at 11 weeks pregnant (!!!). Understandably, I was dreading the 24-hour flight for many weeks. Was it hard? Yes, definitely. But was it bearable? Strangely, yes. Despite traveling with a toddler (which is a whole other ball game), I felt comfortable for most of the flight because there are things that I’ve learnt to prepare for when I travel pregnant.
If you're going to fly at any point in your pregnancy, here are 7 things to consider first...
If you’re before 28 weeks and don’t have a high-risk pregnancy, you should be in the clear to travel but always check with your doctor to see if it’s safe to fly first. Some airlines request a doctor’s note after 28 weeks pregnant, and others ask for one after 32 weeks, so check with your airline and see if you need a doctor’s note so you don’t get caught out at the airport.
It’s generally not recommended to travel after 36 weeks pregnant because you could go into labor at any time (and if you’re carrying twins, it’s after 34 weeks). If you absolutely have to travel, get your doctor’s clearance first.
The cabin air is about 7% humidity, so it’s very dry. If you’re like me, I get really dry eyes, lips and nasal passages during the flight so I always carry saline eye drops, lip balm and hand moisturizer. A pregnant woman’s skin is naturally more sensitive so definitely pack these essentials to make sure you’re comfortable throughout the flight.
The cabin air is pressurized so you don’t have to worry about oxygen levels during your flight. However, the changes in air pressure when you fly can cause digestive discomfort, even if you’re not pregnant (anyone else gassy after a flight?!). A pregnant woman is naturally more likely to experience gassiness, bloating and constipation because of the extra progesterone in her body, so be mindful of this when you fly. I try and avoid foods that naturally make me bloat before and during the flight. This includes carbonated beverages and chewing gum during the flight because you naturally swallow more air when you chew gum.
Air travel is a dehydrating experience for everyone, let alone pregnant women who need to drink more water because of higher blood volumes and the extra fluid making up the baby’s amniotic sac. I always fill a large bottle of water after I pass through airport security so I always have access to water throughout the flight. During the flight, I only consume water – I avoid coffee, tea and soda because they have a dehydrating effect and are diuretics that make you pee more.
Plane food is pretty horrible, even at the best of times. When you’re pregnant, I would be cautious about pre-prepared salads including fruit salads because they’re more likely to harbor dangerous bacteria called listeria. It’s also best to say no to deli meats in sandwiches or in cheese platters. Instead, opt for cooked vegetables, pasteurized dairy and whole grains while you fly.
Before I travel, I like to eat a hearty meal consisting of high-quality protein such as grilled chicken or salmon, with greens and starchy vegetables such as sweet potato. Protein and complex carbohydrates will keep you full for longer while veggies outside of the brassica family (so, not brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale or cauliflower) won't make you gassy for the flight.
When you’re pregnant, it’s important that you pack snacks that you know you’ll enjoy during the flight. This is especially important if you’re travelling in the earlier half of your pregnancy and might be experiencing nausea. On my flight to Australia, I packed apples, oranges, dried mango, plain saltine crackers and salted potato chips. I knew I could easily eat these snacks without throwing up and they were a lifesaver to stave off the hunger between airline meals.
Dressing for comfort is key, especially for long flights while you’re pregnant. I like to wear loose, breathable pants, a pair of socks, comfy shoes and bring a loose sweater in case it’s cold. Invest in those neck pillows and an eye mask if you’re flying overnight or just in case you want to sleep (because who doesn’t want to sleep a little extra when you’re pregnant?!). Feeling well rested will make all the difference when you get to your destination.
I'd love to hear from you! What are some of the things you can't live with when you travel while pregnant? Are there other things women can do to make themselves more comfortable while they fly?