June 24, 2010

Air Travel During Pregnancy

Patients recently pregnant following infertility therapy often ask if air travel is safe during pregnancy.  While definitive studies in pregnant women following infertility therapy have not been published, a number of well designed studies in pregnant women form  the general population have confirmed that air travel is generally safe during an uncomplicated pregnancy.

A recent Committee Opinion No. 433: Air Travel During Pregnancy by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) first published in 2001 and updated in the Journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2009 stated, “ In the absence of obstetric or medical complications, pregnant women can observe the same precautions for air travel as the general population and fly safely.”

Even the longest intercontinental flights will expose passengers to no more than 15% of the limit of cosmic radiation exposure recommended by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and the International Commission on Radiological Protection.  The risks to the fetus from  exposure to cosmic radiation is negligible.  It is possible, however, that flight crew personnel and individuals who are frequent flyers may exceed the recommended limit of exposure.  The Committee also recommends that pregnant women who have medical or obstetric conditions that could be exacerbated by flight such as a tendency for venous stasis and thrombosis (blood clots) or that could require emergency care ( threatened miscarriage, vaginal bleeding, preterm labor) not fly at any time during their pregnancy. Most commercial airlines allow pregnant women to fly up to 36 weeks of gestation.

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Joseph A. Hill, III, M.D.

Joseph A. Hill, III, M.D. Board-Certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility