Pregnancy and Airport Security

image001There are many rules for pregnant women, aren’t there? You can’t eat hot dogs. You must avoid lunch meat. Don’t have that soft cheese! Watch out for the fish, because it might have mercury in it. You have to take good care of your body because it’s not just you anymore – there’s someone inside you who depends on you to make the right choices.

When it comes to x-rays and other radiation exposure, mothers know to avoid those things. But what if you need to travel? Airport security checkpoints might expose mothers to radiation, and so could the flight itself. But if you have to go into the air, what other options do you have? Here’s what expectant mothers need to know about pregnancy and airport security as well as safety rules for flying.

Is It Safe to Go Through Airport Security Scanners When Pregnant?

The Metal Detector

Airport security has many layers. When you first walk into security, you walk through a metal detector. This has a low-level electro-magnetic field that detects anything metallic you might have in your pockets or on your body. We are exposed to this kind of magnetic field on a regular basis, and there are no ill effects for the baby. So when it comes to this particular scanner, walk through it with no worries.

Full-body Scanners--“Backscatter”

What you might want to worry about are the full-body scanners. One of these is called the “backscatter” machine. It uses x-rays to see what you might be carrying against your body as you go through security. However, this has raised concern because of the levels of radiation a developing baby might be exposed to. Medical experts are concerned that these scanners have not undergone enough testing to make it safe for pregnant women to use. Though the Transportation Safety Administration claims the scanners are safe, independent groups have found much higher levels of radiation than the TSA has reported.

There is a great deal of controversy on what is okay and what is not when it comes to the radiation you might be exposed to while pregnant. Some experts say that you would have to go through the backscatter machine 200 times in order to get enough radiation to be harmful. However, others say that there is no clear evidence that the TSA numbers are right.

Still Concerned? Ask for a Pat-Down

What’s a pregnant mother to do when pregnancy and airport security collide? It is important to remember that the health of your baby trumps everything else – including security at the airport. For that reason, you can always request a pat-down away from the scanners. It takes more time and might feel a little invasive, but it is much safer for your developing child.

The pat down will be done by a female member of the TSA team, and you can request that it be done in private, away from other passengers. The agent will run her hands along your body, especially along your belly, checking for weapons. Some people complain that this feels very invasive, so be prepared for that possibility. Make sure you get there early, too, because a pat-down takes much more time than a basic screening does.

What About Screening of Pregnancy Medications?

Speaking of pregnancy and airport security, what about your medications? You might have to take numerous medications while pregnant such as prenatal supplements and medications for certain health conditions. Though the TSA typically requires that all liquids, gels or aerosols be 3.4 ounces or less and all fit into a ziplock bag, there are no such restrictions on medications. Be prepared to present the medications to an agent for screening. If you are diabetic and need insulin, you can carry all of your equipment, provided that you present it to the agents for screening at the security line.

Tips on Making Your Flight More Comfortable When Pregnant

Well, now the problem of pregnancy and airport security is over, what about being up in the air? Flyers are exposed to minute amounts of radiation while in the air, but there is no evidence that this harms the baby – millions of pregnant women fly every year without a worry. The only caveat comes when you are at least 36 weeks along. When you hit that eight-month point, most airlines will not allow you to fly, due to risks of medical emergencies – like labor! – during the flight.

The biggest worry when in the air is likely staying comfortable. If you are traveling internationally, speak with your healthcare provider about any immunizations you might need, or other precautions that you should take to protect your baby.

  • If you are in early pregnancy and dealing with morning sickness, the problem might be exacerbated by flying. Be prepared with a small bag handy, just in case.
  • Stay hydrated, and get up and walk around every 30 minutes to keep you feeling fresher and prevent blood clots in the legs.
  • Look for a seat in the middle of the plane, which allows for a smoother ride.
  • You can also ask for an aisle seat, which provides more leg room, or book a seat in an exit row for the same reason.
  • If you are spring for first class, do it – you will be much more comfortable.
  • When you are traveling a long distance from home, make sure that you are fully prepared, not just for the plane ride, but for the arrival. Know where the local hospitals are in case you need to make a trip to one of them during your stay in a new town.
  • Finally, be ready with plenty of supplies you might need, such as extra medications, a comfortable pillow, a discrete bag in case of air sickness, and the like. The more prepared you are, the smoother your trip will be!

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