Pregnancy and air travel: new guidelines

UK health experts say that flying while pregnant poses no health risks. (Blaj...

UK health experts say that flying while pregnant poses no health risks. (Blaj Gabriel/


, Last Updated: 3:55 PM ET

New advice from UK experts at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says air travel during pregnancy, even at advanced stages of pregnancy, isn't risky to mom or her baby.

In a revised paper, the RCOG says the main cause for concern in pregnant women is the possibility of early labor or an obstetric emergency developing during a flight, but for pregnancy with no complications, flying poses little risk, they said.

"For uncomplicated pregnancies there is no reason to give advice against commercial air travel, and specifically there is no issue with travel in early pregnancy as the main consideration is risk of labor,"  said Professor Ian Greer, from the University of Liverpool and author of the paper. "However if the woman has a history of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy it would be sensible to suggest ultrasound prior to travel to confirm the location and viability of the pregnancy."

The RCOG does suggest that moms-to-be traveling internationally get appropriate travel insurance that covers pregnancy, including the costs of repatriation in the event of a serious problem.

However, some pregnant women may experience exacerbated motion sickness during flights, and staying immobile in a cramped seat could result in a small increase in risk of deep vein thrombosis.

Greer advises pregnant women flying four hours or more to wear graduated elastic compression stockings, which you can purchase at pharmacies.

Healthy women also don't need to be concerned about reduced oxygen during flight, he added.

The paper also suggests that airport body scanners pose no risk to pregnant women, since the radiation levels used are not significant. The Department of Transport and Health Protection Agency added that the total radiation dose from airport scanners is less than that received from two minutes flying at cruising altitude, or from one hour at ground level, WebMD reports.