Many pregnant women have jobs that require frequent air travel, and vacation and holiday plans can also make travel by plane a necessity. Most healthcare providers advise avoiding plane trips after 35 weeks, and some complications during pregnancy may make air travel contraindicated at any point. But for the majority of pregnant women, travel poses little risk as long as certain precautions are followed.
There is some concern about the radiation risk to the fetus regarding exposure to security metal detectors or full body scanners. Airport security metal detector don’t use ionizing radiation, (the type used in x ray machines but use “nonionizing” radiation-form that does not pose a risk even with routine and/or repeated scanning. As a comparison, the level of radiation from metal detectors is very low-in fact it would take 25,000 trips through an airport scanner to equal one year of normal sun exposure.
The “full-body” x-ray scanner uses a very low-energy and low-intensity radiation, and the energy of the x-ray beam is so low that it does not penetrate the skin-it just forms a picture of the outline of your external torso. Although the risk of passing through these machines is very low, pregnant women can eliminate the risk and worry by choosing to have a “pat down” by TSA instead. Here are a few tips for avoiding x-ray machines and scanners:
- Plan for arriving at the airport with extra time for the pat-down.
- Alert the TSA employees if you’re pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
- If you are concerned about exposure to security machines, you are allowed to choose a TSA pat-down instead of having to pass through the machines.
For more information on the safety of airport x-ray machines and scanners go to:
A very real concern during flights, train, bus or car travel is the formation of blood clots that may occur from long periods of sitting. You can reduce your risk of developing blood clots by getting up and walking every hour, and when sitting avoid crossing your legs. It is helpful to do ankle rolls and foot flexions and squeeze and relax your leg muscles every 15 minutes.
Always pack a protein rich snack and water bottle with your carry on bag, and avoid high sodium foods as they can increase edema. Keeping well hydrated is key, even if it means you will need frequent bathroom breaks, as dehydration can increase the risk of clots as well as swelling in your lower extremities.
You can help make your travel more comfortable by planning ahead and choosing seating that offers more leg room (bulk head seating on planes) and an aisle seat so you are free to get up and move or use the bathroom when needed. Bring a lumbar support and neck roll (a zip lock gallon bag works great for a lumbar support-zip it nearly shut and blow air in to the bag until inflated to the size your want and quickly zip it shut). Place the bag behind your back for a great low back support. Also, bring a lightweight blanket (can be used as a back support or neck support when rolled up) and it will keep you warm.
It is always important to dress comfortable when traveling, but it is even more so when pregnant. Avoid tightfitting clothing and shoes that do not provide good support and comfort. If you have to dress up for your work, wear lightweight workout shoes that you can swap out with dress shoes once you reach your destination.
Lastly, check your bag if possible to avoid having to lift a heavy suitcase into the overhead bin. If you have to carry on, ask for assistance with your bag to keep from injuring your back. Instead of lugging a heavy purse or attaché case, use a small rolling laptop briefcase that can hold all your purse contents, computer, paperwork and other items.