Air travel during pregnancy: what are the risks?

  • Shalev Ram H & al.
  • PLoS One
  • 1 Jan 2020

  • curated by Elisabeth Aron, MD, MPH, FACOG
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • A large retrospective study finds a small but significant decrease in birth weight and gestational age at delivery in women who travel by air during pregnancy.

Why this matters

  • Inconclusive literature on the safety of air travel during pregnancy makes it difficult to advise pregnant women.

Key results

  • 6.6% of pregnant women in this cohort traveled by air.
  • Most flights occurred during the second trimester.
  • During the study, the proportion of women who air-traveled during pregnancy increased between 2000 and 2014.
  • Air travel was associated with small but significant decreases in birth weight (3269 vs 3263 g; P=.011) and gestational age at birth (39+0 vs 39+1 weeks; P<.0001>

Study design

  • Observational retrospective cohort study.
  • Cohort taken from the Maccabi Healthcare Services, an integrated care organization in Israel.
  • Women who gave birth between 2000 and 2016 who purchased air travel insurance were compared with unexposed pregnancies.
  • Primary outcomes included low birth weight and low gestational age at birth.
  • Funding: None.

Limitations

  • Information about flight length not included.
  • Other adverse risks related to air travel not included.
  • Clinical significance of differences between groups is not clear.