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Flying in Pregnancy
Obstetrics 

If you’re pregnant and been itching for an overseas holiday, you might be thinking of taking advantage of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble. But what do you need to know first about flying in pregnancy?

Flying in pregnancy is very common these days, and the topic comes up a lot with my patients because, let’s face it, the world is a much smaller place and people will commonly fly in pregnancy either domestically or internationally, if they’re lucky enough.

Can you do this? Should you do this? Well, I’m glad you asked.

My general approach is, fly while you can, live your life, don’t wrap yourself in cotton wool. Let’s face it the opportunities for travel after you have had your baby probably aren’t going to increase for quite some time. So, if you can, do so.

The first rule is, you can’t fly beyond 36 weeks. That’s a hard cap. No flying after 36 weeks. But there are two other issues you need to know about when flying beneath that cap. The first is the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) so big blood clots that can occur in your lower legs in the deep veins. They can occur and then break off and travel to your lungs and they can be life threatening.

Pregnancy by itself increases the risk of DVT by about five to eight-fold. Now, when you fly, that risk increases a little bit again. So, you need to do a couple of things to mitigate that risk. The first is, you should wear compression stockings. Compression stockings you can buy from your local pharmacy and they reduce your risk of DVT.

The other thing you should do is seek to move around the cabin of the plain. I usually suggest at least once for every hour that you are flying. That again, keeps the blood moving and reduces those risks.

The second risk that you need to be aware of, above and beyond DVT, is that of pre-term delivery. So, of delivering your baby in the location to which you are flying. Let’s say you’re going away for the weekend, you’re 30 weeks pregnant, you’re flying somewhere hours from home, let’s say you’re from Brisbane flying to Sydney, and you deliver the baby in Sydney. That baby is going to need to be keep in an intensive care nursery until such time as it’s big enough and well enough to travel back home. That can be a long period of time.

So, you need to assess the risk yourself and determine whether you’re happy to accept that. Now, the risk of pre-term delivery beneath 37 weeks is about 7.5% and beneath 32 weeks is about 1.7%. Not massive numbers but again, numbers that you need to be comfortable with.

You also need to have your travel insurance squared away. So, if you’re travelling to NZ in the travel bubble, you need to make sure your insurer knows that you’re pregnant and is happy to cover you.

Finally, you must get a letter from your doctor, confirming that you are medically fit to fly.

Safe travels!

Dr Brad Robinson
Obstetrician – Gynaecologist
Greenslopes Private Hospital
Brisbane


Flying in pregnancy blog by Dr Brad Robinson, Brisbane Obstetrician Gynaecologist

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