In a newly released scientific paper, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists underscores the importance of wearing compression stockings during flights of more than four hours of duration.
This is directly in line with up to date international direction and guidance concerning this matter.
Women who need to fly during their pregnancy, be it for work related reasons or simply for leisure, usually try to get their obstetrician’s approval before they take to the skies.
The main worries for this are the possible risks of early labor or other serious emergencies that could develop during a flight.
It is for those reasons that many major airlines will not permit women that are 36 weeks pregnant to fly because there would not be adequate care or facilities available in flight to handle preterm labor or other possible complications of a pregnancy.
With multiple pregnancies or in the event of other pre-existing risk factors, it is highly recommended that women should not fly after 32 weeks into their pregnancy.
Obstetricians should be aware of special conditions or possible complications that could present an elevated risk for pregnant women if they should undertake commercial air travel.
Examples of Such High Risk Conditions or Complications While Being Pregnant:
- Severe anemia
- Inflammatory diseases of the middle ear (Otitis media)
- A recent hemorrhage
- Respiratory disease or cardiac conditions
- Gastrointestinal or laparoscopic surgery
- A fracture with leg swelling or if a new cast has been put in place
To Minimize the Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) the following Recommendations should be observed:
Consistent with present international guidelines, shorter flight durations of less than 4 hours generally do not require any specific precautionary measures.
For longer flights, on the other hand, it is recommended that all pregnant women wear properly measured and fitted stockings or pantyhose with graduated compression.
This is particularly important for individuals with high risk histories such as such as a previous thrombosis or morbid obesity.
Women with such additional risks may also require pharmacological treatment as prescribed by their physician or pregnancy specialist.
In addition, it is also beneficial to:
- Choose an aisle seat to be able to get up and move around easily
- Take frequent walks around the cabin
- Perform leg and foot exercises in 30 minute intervals throughout the flight
- Maintain fluid intake (bottled water is best) and avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages
- Have a personal risk assessment for DVT performed
The general view of the RCOG is that there is no hard evidence that flying increases the occurrence of complications during pregnancy.
Nevertheless, the risks are real and should not just be dismissed in any case. The incidence of deep vein thrombosis as a result of air travel may be difficult to correlate because a DVT may occur sometime after a flight has taken place and would therefore not necessarily be associated with a patient’s air travel.
Consider for example the case of Tennis player Kirsten Flipkens who narrowly escaped a life threatening situation with blood clots in both legs after a long distance flight …
Tennis Star Kirsten Flipkens Recovering from Blood Clots After A Flight
For the complete details of the scientific paper the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists please follow the link below
Royal College (RCOG) Document on Air Travel
The upshot is that we need more public awareness of the risks of deep vein thrombosis as a result of long distance flights, also known as Economy Class Syndrome.
Unfortunately most airlines do not do enough to increase public awareness by actively promoting or openly recommending wearing compression stockings during long distance flights as a measure to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
One exception here is the German airline Lufthansa, which recommends that people in special risk groups such as expecting women wear compression stockings during flights. Read more about Lufthansa’s recommendations regarding travel thrombosis by following the link below.
Travel Thrombosis – What You Can Do To Prevent It
Additional reading: Pregnancy Flying – Policies Of 13 Major Airlines
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