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Can flying cause a miscarriage? Tips for a smooth pregnancy

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Can flying cause a miscarriage? Tips for a smooth pregnancy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The number of precautions that pregnant women need to take when carrying a baby can be overwhelming for some. Rightly so since two lives are at risk. To ease the mind of those having travel plans, we explore the popular belief that flying may cause a miscarriage. 

Debunking the myth that flying can cause a miscarriage

Looking at the risks of a miscarriage when flying, this article will explore whether it is safe for pregnant women to fly in case of an uncomplicated pregnancy. However, a pregnancy being unpredictable, there are certain precautions that must be taken and flying commercially is not recommended in case of complications. In all cases, a flight via an air ambulance is almost always possible, especially thanks to advanced safety technology. 

Flying can cause a miscarriage: a myth or reality? 

An expectant mother cannot be blamed if she is worried about flying during her pregnancy. With the number of claims flying around left and right, there are bound to be confusion and concerns, the main one being whether ‘flying may cause a miscarriage?’

pregnant woman in airplane

What are the factors inherently connected to flying that lead to the claim that flying can cause a miscarriage? 

  1. The lower air pressure and oxygen level in the plane cabin
  2. The cosmic radiation during high altitudes flights

Nonetheless, researchers and health professionals point out that there is no evidence demonstrating that changes in air pressure prevent oxygen from reaching the fetus or cause harm to the baby. Similarly, radiation from occasional flights poses no risk to mothers and their baby. 

As Sarah Reynolds, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Bedford Hospital NHS Trust advanced,  “If your pregnancy has no complications then there's no reason why you can't travel safely, as long as you take the right precautions”. 

However, there are certain risks in case of complications during the pregnancy and if the appropriate precautions are not taken

The dangers of DVT for pregnant women while flying

The most common risk to pregnant women when flying is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a blood clot that usually forms in your leg and pelvis and that can travel in the bloodstream in the body. A DVT becomes dangerous, even life-threatening, if the blood clot travels to your lung, causing pulmonary embolism. It may also get stuck and block the blood flow to an important organ or limb. 

What expectant mothers should be aware of is that while they are pregnant and for up to six weeks after the birth of their baby, the risk of developing DVT is higher in comparison to others. This is further exacerbated by the fact that during a flight, you are seated for a prolonged amount of time. The longer the flight, the higher the risk

Besides DVT, there are other medical conditions or complications that prevent you from flying to avoid any risk of a miscarriage. 

blood clot

When not to fly to prevent a miscarriage? 

While the act of flying in itself might not lead to a miscarriage, the combination of other risk factors might cause a serious threat. That is why your doctor would advise you against flying in case of: 

  • Severe anaemia
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Recent significant vaginal bleeding
  • Breathing difficulties following a lung problem
  • An ectopic pregnancy 
  • Increased chance of a miscarriage
  • Increased risk of going into labour before your due date 
  • A previous history of ectopic pregnancy, inflammatory disease, infertility or tubal pathology. 

The problem with flying when pregnant is that in case of a complication, there would be no medical professional, such as a doctor or a paramedic, onboard the flight to help you out. Another impediment is the lack of medical equipment which might be necessary to offer the appropriate treatment in some cases. 

What to do in case of a complication abroad during your pregnancy? 

The possibility of a medical complication occurring during your pregnancy while you are abroad on holiday should not be eliminated. What to do in the case of high blood pressure during your holiday in Italy? What about preeclampsia? 

In matters related to pregnancy, for your safety and that of your unborn baby, it is better to seek medical care immediately. After receiving emergency care, you should weigh the pros and the cons of remaining abroad. The following are questions that you should ask yourself: 

  • Is the quality of care available and the healthcare system better than the NHS? 
  • How affordable is the healthcare system? Can I afford the treatment long-term? 
  • Will I obtain more efficient treatment from a doctor who is familiar with my case?
  • Where are my previous reports/ history related to the pregnancy?
  • Will I be able to rest and recover more quickly at home?
  • Are there friends and relatives to take care of me and provide moral support here? 

After deliberation, if you decide to get back to the UK, can you do so on a commercial flight? In case of a complication, considering the lack of medical equipment and healthcare professionals onboard, it is better to travel via an air ambulance. Indeed, commercial airline staff are not qualified or experienced to deliver effective treatment and care. 

Note: Most airline companies would not allow you onboard a commercial plane after 28 to 35 weeks for international travel, even if you do not have any complication. 

commercial airline

Flying whilst pregnant: travelling via an air ambulance for pregnant women 

Medical Repatriation UK has air ambulances that help patients travel both short and long-distances safely. These are medical planes that are equipped with the latest medical equipment and with doctors and paramedics on board. 

The medical equipment is similar to that available in an Intensive Care Unit. As such, even ICU patients can travel safely, knowing that they are taken care of, in the air ambulances of Medical Repatriation UK. When it comes to pregnant women, we make sure that we equip our medical flights with the necessary equipment based on their condition. We can even have a gynecologist as our air ambulance doctor to provide the necessary specialist care and treatment. 

Added benefits of travelling on an air ambulance for pregnant women

Doctors prescribe bed rest to pregnant women to prevent complications related to the baby’s growth and other issues such as vaginal bleeding or preterm labour. Moreover, in case of a medical complication, pregnant women are advised to complete bed rest. However, the act of flying commercially can be very tiring. For instance, it involves waiting in long lines during boarding and having to reach the airport hours earlier. 

Nonetheless, with air ambulances, this issue is eliminated. Pregnant women can have complete bed rest even if they are flying. With an air ambulance, there is no need to wait in line to check-in. You will enter the airport via a separate entrance and get into the air ambulance directly. 

ambulance jet

Moreover, we offer a bed-to-bed service. This involves picking you up from your hotel room/hospital and taking you to the airport. We can literally carry you to the ground ambulance in case you cannot move. The same process is applicable once you land in the UK as well. 

Our air ambulances operate in any part of the world, and depending on your situation, can usually be deployed the following day of the booking process. 

Contact us for an air ambulance

If you are pregnant and you are wary about flying or you have a complicated pregnancy and you need an air ambulance, get in touch with us. Our agents are available at any time of the day to devise a non-binding quotation for you. Get in touch: 

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