Air Travel And Pregnancy
The scientists have been arguing the possible risks of air travel during pregnancy for decades. There is an insistent school of thought that a combination of lowered levels of oxygen, radiation exposure, and other factors relating to flying might cause harm to a baby in utero. But while there have been a few studies that took a deeper look at such claims, none were able to confirm such theories.
The most extensive study of this kind was published in the year 1999 and used flight attendants as its study participants. The data from this study was collected during the years 1973 to 1994 and took a close look at both the medical records and work habits of 1,751 flight attendants who were pregnant while actively working. This study was published in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the results? The rates of complications were low.
One finding, however, did stand out: those flight attendants who worked during the early stages of pregnancy did have a slight increase in the rate of miscarriage as compared to their coworkers who took leave during this time. It was impossible to know from the data whether flying was to blame or rather some other factor, for instance, stress or overwork.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists did spend time reviewing all the data from the various research studies and issued a report in the year 2001 which stated that those women in otherwise good health could fly without concern for safety at any point before the 36th week of pregnancy. At this point, the advanced age of the pregnancy means that pregnant travelers are at risk of going into labor during a flight.
Aside from these findings, the 2001 report indicated that typical radiation exposure during air travel for pregnant women was minimal. This means that while radiation exposure is certainly higher during air travel, this increase is so minimal that it does not pose a danger to the fetus for miscarriage or birth defects. The larger the aircraft the higher the level of radiation exposure, though even in a Lear Jet the amount is not thought to cause injury to a fetus.
The 2001 report also indicated that low cabin pressure is not a danger to the oxygen supply of the developing fetus, who continues to maintain an appropriate level of oxygen, even during a lengthy flight. The upshot: if you're not in your ninth month, you need not be concerned about air travel as long as you and your fetus are in good health.