Friday, December 16, 2011

Flying While Pregnant

First off, sorry I've been totally MIA since leaving for my trip.  I had a great time at home (more on that later) and then the worst travel experience EVER on the way back to California that ended in me missing my second flight, being stranded in Arizona, feeling like crap, and finally getting home a day late.  But whatevs, I'm home now (praise Buddha) and figured I'd do a post on my experience and my recommendations for flying while pregnant!

I flew from Fresno, California to Boston, Massachusetts.  Since Fresno is a tiny airport I had a transfer in Phoenix, Arizona.  My first flight was just over one hour, the second just over five (the way back was significantly longer since it was going against the jet stream) and I left at like 9:30 am (local time) and arrived at about 8 pm (local time).  Apart from some severe turbulence towards the end of my second flight the whole experience was pretty uneventful.

Before Leaving

First of all, when you're booking your flights sit in an aisle seat.  As much as it sucks to be hit with the beverage cart every time they pass, let's face it, we pregnant ladies pee a lot, and sitting in the aisle makes it considerably more comfortable to get up and go to the restroom.  You should also get up regularly to stretch your legs to prevent getting blood clots, which is another reason to sit in the aisle.

If you have to change planes make sure you leave enough time between them.  Normally I have no problem sprinting from one end of an airport to the other carry-on luggage in tow, but at 23 weeks pregnant I'm not quite as quick as I'm used to.  And my back hurts enough just walking, never mind running with the added weight of luggage.

And don't forget to talk to your doctor/midwife.  My midwife didn't bring up wearing compression stockings or anything, but that may have been related to how far along I am and the fact that I actually haven't swollen up at all (my rings have actually gotten loose on me since getting pregnant), but your doctor may feel differently.

These next two are just good to do in general before flying, but to me were especially important since I'm carrying precious cargo, lol.

The few days before you fly, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Airplanes are dry and disease ridden places.  Making sure that you're properly hydrated before flying will make the experience more pleasant.  And, if you are properly hydrated you won't feel the need to drink as much while in the air thus minimizing trips to the gross-o airplane bathrooms.

For me, this last one was a huge one.  You see, when I was in middle school I flew down to Florida with an ear infection.  Then got water in my ear while visiting.  When I flew home, my ears started bleeding and I have been fighting ear issues ever since.  Since that experience, I've had a strict regiment of borderline over-dosing on decongestant allergy meds for the week leading up to my flight as well as using Affrin nasal spray for at least three days leading up to the flight.  Making sure that I don't have anything blocking my sinuses while I fly has minimized the discomfort and lasting negative effects that I've always associated with extreme pressure changes.

Well, I couldn't do that this time.  I don't want to take any medications during my pregnancy, even if they are considered "safe" for pregnant women.  I don't think there's anything wrong with women who do choose to take medication while pregnant, it just isn't something I want to do.  So how did I prepare my sinus cavities for the flight?  Sinus irrigation.  Yup, I neti-ed it up...
In case you were unaware, a neti pot is used to clear the sinus cavity of allergens as well as irrigate your sinuses.  This is accomplished by using a saline solution in the little "pot," then you lean over a sink and pour the warm liquid in one nostril.  From there, gravity takes control and the liquid goes through the sinus cavity and out the other nostril.
It's a strange sensation to say the least, but after you get over that, it is freaking amazing.  I didn't have any issues with my sinuses/ears during my flights!  Although it probably isn't completely due to the neti (maybe my ears are actually just getting better!) I definitely think it helped!  I "cleansed" twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening) for the week leading up to my trip, and the entire time I was gone.

Day of flight/while flying

Dress in layers.  Seriously, my temperature changes are worse than my mood swings, lol!  And you really never know if it'll be blazing hot or freezing cold on a plane.  Also, I don't like to use the little air vent to cool you off since in my mind its just spraying you with germs (seriously though - the air on planes is disgusting), and would much prefer to sit there in a tank top.  It also doesn't hurt to dress in form fitting clothes (but still comfortable) to show off your bump.  Let's face it, people in general are much nicer to pregnant ladies than they are anyone else!

Don't forget to bring snacks.  Beyond the fact that its really rare for an airline to actually give you any food on a flight, if you're anything like me you can go from fine to starving in three seconds flat.  And no one likes a starving pregnant lady!

Once you get to security, ask questions about the scanners they're using.  At the Fresno airport, they use scanners that actually use sound waves; there is no radiation emitted from them.  In Boston, however, they use a different type of scanner that does expose you to small amounts of radiation.  Is it harmful to your baby?  The authorities say it isn't.  But radiation is something that builds up in your system over time, and you'll be exposed to some of it during your flight no matter what you do.  So I'm, personally, not comfortable exposing my little Sea Monkey to any more radiation than necessary, and when going through security in Boston I asked for a pat down rather than a scan.  They had no problem with it!

Once you get through security, go buy the biggest water you can get your hands on.  You really don't know how long it'll take for the "beverage services" to start while you're in the air, plus you don't want to be harassing the flight attendants the entire flight.  Having a huge jug of water at your disposal is a must.

And I might seem kinda paranoid, but I promise I'm not germaphobic.  Airplanes and airports are just disgusting.  Period.  Wash your hands every chance you get.  There are just so many people bringing diseases from all around the world.  Not to mention the fact that the air while in flight is just recycled over and over again, meaning you're just getting washed over again and again by germs.  It's disgusting.

Finally, once you get to your final destination (wash your hands again, hahaha) enjoy yourself!  These past few days I've been a little sore which I'm attributing to being crammed in a small seat for so long so I've made it a point to stretch as much as possible, but apart from that I feel fine!

If you have any advice to add, be sure to leave a comment, and hopefully this long ass post can help someone else prep for a flight during their pregnancy!

Until next time...


  1. Netipot freaks me out. Other than that, good points! I plan on traveling at 32 weeks and definitely plan on buying a large bottle of water once I'm through security and getting an aisle seat. I'm also hoping Southwest will take pity on me and hold a bulkhead seat for me, too. :)

  2. I am so glad you posted this! We're thinking about doing a trip from Boston to San Diego in February and I'll be about 20 weeks along. This made me feel much better as I'm pretty nervous about being on a plane for that long.

  3. Jill - the idea of a Neti pot totally freaks me out, too. But I've been using nasal sprays regularly for as long as I can remember (because of my ear problems) and it really isn't THAT much weirder to do! It was definitely worth it, too, I don't know how I've gone this long without using one!

  4. Emily - it really wasn't that bad! And I'm pretty sure Jet Blue flies from Boston to San Diego; if I were you I would fly with them. They have WAY more leg room and they actually give you food! If I could have I totally would have flown with them, but they don't fly to Fresno 8-/

  5. Just after reading your blog I came across this article on yahoo news and had to send it to you. It seems it is unsafe only if you use it the wrong way.

    "If you are irrigating, flushing, or rinsing your sinuses, for example, by using a neti pot, use distilled, sterile or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution," said Louisiana State Epidemiologist, Dr. Raoult Ratard. "Tap water is safe for drinking, but not for irrigating your nose."

    It's also important to rinse the irrigation device after each use and leave open to air dry, he said.It There was an "Neti Pot Deaths Linked to Brain-Eating Amoeba in Tap Water"

    That's the link to the article or you can find it on yahoo.

  6. sorry, didn't proof read that last post very well, but basically was just sending you an article that said the Nati pot has been linked to two deaths because of contamination in the water they were putting in their nose.

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