Flying while pregnant

What are
the possible
problems of
flying while

Changes in altitude or temperature can aggravate morning sickness or nausea especially if you go to destinations with weather you are unused to, e.g. a ski resort or a very hot seaside resort. However, after adjustment you usually feel better. This adjustment may take up to three to five days. In the meantime, reduce outdoor activities and relax more. Get lots of rest. You are more likely to get dehydrated at highlands, in very hot weathers, or if you are vomiting from morning sickness. Drink lots of fluids. This is important as water carries nutrients through your blood to your baby. If you have headaches, irritability, or worsening nausea, go indoors into an air-conditioned place.

Will the
radiation in an
airplane flight
harm my
unborn baby?

Whether we’re on land or in the air, we’re exposed every day to cosmic ionizing radiation, which comes from the sun and other stars. On the ground, the Earth’s atmosphere offers some protection from the radiation. At high altitudes, the air is thinner and radiation
levels are higher. However, they’re not high enough to be harmful to the occasional traveller. Radiation levels can be a lot higher during periods of solar flares — bursts of electromagnetic radiation caused by disturbances in the sun’s atmosphere. Luckily, solar flares are rare and last only a short while.

Some experts recommend that pregnant women check for notices about solar flares before flying. If a flare is expected, consider postponing the trip a day or two.

What if you’re a member of an airplane crew and need to fly frequently? Some experts think that cosmic radiation could pose a small risk to flight crews and frequent fliers. In some countries, pregnant crew members are reassigned to low-altitude flights or given temporary ground jobs during their pregnancies. But for infrequent air travellers, pregnant or not, the risk from cosmic ionizing radiation under normal solar conditions is considered negligible.

Is it safe to
fly during the
third trimester?

It is generally safe to fly up to 34 -36 weeks of pregnancy. However, in certain highrisk cases, it is prudent to postpone your travels if you:

  •  are carrying twins or multiple babies.
  • have diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • have low lying placenta or vaginal bleeding.
  • are under observation for preterm labor.
  • have a history of forming blood clots (including prior to pregnancy).
  • have too much liquor (fluid) in the pregnancy (polyhydramnios), leading to risk of premature membrane rupture and premature labour.

Even if you’re having an uncomplicated pregnancy, it’s best to avoid flying during your final month whenyou’re more likely to go into labour. Many airlines won’t even let women who are due on board within a certain period of time before the flight. Despite what is shown in movies, cabin crew really don’t want you to deliver while in the air!

To avoid problems at the boarding gate, carry a note from your doctor stating your expected due date.

Dipetik dari i-exposure Vol 18 by Dr Eric Soh Boh Swee (Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist) – Island Hospital Penang

Hubungi Perwakilan Island Hospital Penang – 0811657299/ 081533318356/ 085296335566


Travelling During Pregnancy (Part 1)

In an increasingly connected world today and with rising affluence coupled with more affordable, convenient and comfortable travelling modes, more and more women are travelling during their pregnancies. However there is always anxiety for women on whether travelling affects them or their babies.

Hence, let’s review the common modes of commute and peruse if they affect the pregnancies in any way, at the various trimesters of pregnancy.

Travelling can generally be by land, air or sea. Land travel will either be by automobiles or train. Air travel will either be in pressurised aircrafts i.e. larger commercial aircrafts, or smaller non pressurised aircrafts.


For an uneventful healthy pregnancy, it is generally safe to fly throughout the pregnancy until 36 weeks at the latest. However, for certain high risk pregnancies, it’s better to stay closer to
home and hospital. The risk of miscarriage is highest in the first trimester, whether one is travelling or not. Also in the first trimester, morning sickness, gastrointestinal discomfort and poor energy levels may render travelling an unpleasant experience. Meanwhile the risk of premature labour is highest after the 34th week. Here, some pregnant women may opt to carry a summary of their pregnancy records with them during their travels in case they require emergency obstetric care whilst away from home. Hence the safest time to travel is between the 14th – 27th weeks.

Is it safe to
walk through
machines while

Most airports scan passengers with metal detectors using low-frequency electromagnetic fields to look for forbidden objects. The low levels of electromagnetic fields that a metal detector emits, is generally safe. Sometimes the security personnel use electromagnetic ‘wands’ to pass over passengers who trigger the alarms. These are also safe.

Luggage X-ray machines however, are not safe. They emit radiation like normal medical X-rays machines. They are meant only for bags and inanimate objects. Therefore do NOT place your hand through the curtain of the screening machine. There will be significant levels of

There are now new types of body scanning machines in certain airports in the United States and other places. One of them, the “backscatter” machine, uses low-level X-rays to create an image of the surface of your body to detect objects hidden under clothes. This machine may not be entirely safe. Another type, the “millimeter wave” machine, uses electromagnetic waves and is less controversial.

The US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) claims that the radiation exposurefrom the backscatter machine emits less than 1/1,000 of the radiation given off in a standard chest X-ray, or the equivalent of two minutes of high-altitude flight. Hence it is safe. However, some medical experts question whether the machines have been tested thoroughly enough and what would happen if a machine malfunctions. Therefore, in
pregnancy, you can insist for a physical “pat down” search instead.

Is the
airplane cabin
pressure safe?

All commercial planes maintain a standard level of cabin pressure. If your pregnancy has been uneventful, this pressure is safe. However, because the air pressure in the cabin is less than the normal pressure on land, your heart rate and blood pressure will increase to enable you to take in the oxygen you need. For women with severe anemia, sickle cell disease, a history of blood clot or a condition called ‘Intrauterine Growth Restriction’ (IUGR), you or your baby may have oxygen deficiency and should avoid flying.

Flying in unpressurized small planes is a different matter. If you’re cruising say, at 10,000 feet, for example, that’s just like standing atop a 10,000-foot mountain. Your cardiovascular system will have to work harder to supply you and your baby with sufficient oxygen, so it’s probably wise to avoid unpressurized planes.

Dipetik dari i-exposure Vol 18 by Dr Eric Soh Boh Swee (Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist – Island Hospital Penang

Hubungi Perwakilan Island Hospital Penang – 0811657299/ 081533318356/ 085296335566