Grounded. Why can't pregnant women fly?

Grounded.  Why can't pregnant women fly?

Welcome, and welcome back!

We’ve just completed another record month!  We want to extend our gratitude to all of you for giving us your trust (and your orders).  Our ambition is to grow the market for Tummy Thyme Teeny and Tummy Thyme Toddler, and to continually meet your demands for healthy and nutritious foods that reflect your values as parents.  Your feedback is always welcome.

Grounded. Why can't pregnant women fly?

Much has been written about flying and pregnancy, not all of it well researched.   In this blog we want to look at some of the issues that affect pregnancy and air travel.

In this day and age, air travel is the preferred and often cheapest form of travel.  There are many reasons why we fly, holidays being only one of them.  We also fly for work, for family celebrations, and funerals.  So it can be annoying to be told that because you are carrying a baby in utero you cannot fly.

To be fair, the restrictions generally kick in when you reach the third trimester of your pregnancy.  But according to Australian obstetrician, Dr Will Milford, flying while pregnant carries very little additional risk.  He argues that it’s more to do with reducing risk to the airline than to the woman and her fetus.

"Flying does not have any effect on the pregnancy," Dr Milford says.  "You're not more likely to go into labour or break your waters from flying.  What airlines are worried about is a woman giving birth on the plane, the risk of which obviously increases as you get close to your due date."

So what are the airlines' rules?

Restrictions about flying while pregnant vary from airline to airline, so it’s worth checking with the carrier before you book and travel.  For example, some airlines impose restrictions according to the length of the flight.  Others will allow women to travel on flights more than four hours in length up to the end of the 36th week for single pregnancies and the end of the 32nd week for twins or more, provided there are no pregnancy complications.

A Note From Your Doctor

For flights less than four hours, some airlines will allow you to travel up to the end of the 40th week in a single pregnancy and the 36th week for a multiple pregnancy. 

Many airlines require women travelling after 28 weeks of pregnancy to carry a note from their doctor or midwife confirming their due date and pregnancy details.   If there are complications, you have to travel with a medical clearance form signed by your doctor. 

Even if you meet all of the above, you must have travel insurance and it must cover pregnancy-related conditions.  As a general rule, if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel. 

Having met the airline’s requirements, you might still have to deal with objections when you reach the airport. 

In a recent article by Tegan Taylor, a digital producer and journalist with Australia’s ABC News, she referred to an experience by frequent flyer Lorinda Wishart who had no medical concerns during her pregnancy, but found that convincing airport ground staff and flight attendants of that fact was sometimes difficult.

Ms. Wishart was moving home to Australia after a stint working in Bangladesh, but decided to squeeze in some trekking in Nepal and adventures in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand before settling down to parenthood. 

"The doctors that I saw were international doctors and if you were really fit and healthy they didn't have a problem with you flying, but the airlines didn't always see it that way," she said. 

Despite carrying a doctor's note with her, Ms Wishart says overcautious staff at one small airline delayed her whole flight while they worked out whether or not she should be allowed to board. 

"The bigger airlines were fine but [staff at] those smaller airlines weren't necessarily sure about what their policy was," Lorinda said. 

In another case cited by Ms Taylor, pregnant mom Victoria Beattie began travelling with printouts and screenshots of her correspondence with the airline, confirming that she had been cleared to fly.

"The last thing I wanted was to be six months pregnant and stuck (overseas) with no way of getting home," Victoria said.

Ms Beattie also got some conflicting advice from other women, including a suggestion that airport security screenings were dangerous, which prompted her to do some frantic online searching.

"That put a bit of fear in me, but [I discovered] there's nothing wrong with that at all," she says.

Flying for the average traveller does come with some caveats, so all of us – pregnant women included - should be aware of the possible complications. 

Dr. Milford says the main health concern is deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, which is the formation of a blood clot in a deep vein of the leg.  It can cause complications such as pain, inflammation and swelling. The greater danger with these clots is that they can dislodge and travel through the circulatory system, blocking blood supply to the lungs.

The risk of DVT is higher when pregnant, and being immobile for long periods is also a risk factor, so it's worth keeping this in mind for any sort of travel, including long car trips.

"The usual things we suggest to reduce that risk is to make sure you're well hydrated, to make sure you're well mobilised during the flight and to wear compression stockings," Dr Milford says.

In very rare cases, women with a higher risk of clotting may be on special medication to guard against this, but this would be part of an ongoing conversation with a doctor regardless of travel plans, he says.

What about cosmic radiation?

Cosmic radiation comes in the form of high-energy particles from outer space.  At ground level, protected by Earth's thick atmosphere, our exposure is very low but it increases at altitude.

Dr. Milford says for occasional travellers, it shouldn't be a consideration. 

"The amount of radiation you get from a single flight is really, really low," he says.

Very frequent flyers — like flight crew or some business travellers — have higher levels of exposure, but even then, 100 hours in the air only presents a "very small theoretical risk", and still less than other radiation sources people might encounter on the ground.

Dr. Milford's recommends that pregnant women carry a hard copy of their pregnancy summary with them when they travel, just in case medical treatment is needed during a trip.

"The major thing is emphasising that pregnancy isn't a disease," Dr Milford says.  "In reality, there are very few things that you can't or shouldn't do while you're pregnant.

"Being pregnant, you're just as healthy as you normally are. But some things just require a bit more thought and planning than otherwise."



You can’t help but love this gorgeous photo of Ethan.  Here he is eating Tummy Thyme’s spiced pumpkin with chickpea for lunch.  “Yummy!” says his mom.  “This is how excited he usually is for his Tummy Thyme meals - it's a great joy seeing him love mealtime so much and knowing that all your meals are so extraordinarily good and nutritious.”



Ayelet Feig*, CSCS CPI


Pregnancy can be one of the most exhilarating times in a woman’s life, full of anticipation and joy. It can also be physically and mentally taxing, placing significant stresses on our bodies, causing us to experience aches and general discomfort.

Due to pregnancy’s considerable anatomical changes, many pre and post-natal women face physical challenges that may affect them long after delivery.

One of the most commonly and drastically-affected areas during pregnancy is the pelvic floor.

The pelvic floor is a system of ligaments and smooth muscle tissue that acts as a sturdy and ingenious hammock supporting, among other things the uterus, bladder, urethra, and bowel. It is connected to the rectum and the vagina, stretching from the pubic bone to the tail bone and from one hip to the other.  This creates what we call the fourth wall, or the ’floor’ of the torso.

Due to its unique position, the pelvic floor has to be strong enough to carry the additional load of the fetus as well as sufficiently elastic to expand during delivery. During labor the pelvic floor guides the baby's head down the birth canal. Even more than labor, pregnancy substantially affects the strength and resilience of the pelvic floor.

Incontinence during pregnancy

Even women who had cesarean delivery are still susceptible to pelvic floor dysfunction. One consequence of that is incontinence.  It is reported that during pregnancy, 64% of women develop some level of incontinence.

During pregnancy, functionality of the pelvic floor lessens due to the demands of the body’s growth and the increase in fascial and ligament flexibility. The systematic overstretching of ligaments and laxness of joints create an inherent vulnerability in the face of the load. That weakness leads to lack of communication between the brain and the muscles, resulting in dysfunction.

The consequences of this reality often fall under the umbrella of ’pelvic floor dysfunction’ which includes pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, pelvic-organ prolapse, anal incontinence, and changes in sexual function. It is reported that 15% of women in the United States experience pelvic pain.

In addition to pregnancy and child birth, other factors can also weaken the pelvic floor muscles, including surgery, aging, excessive straining (from coughing or constipation), and being overweight. Pelvic floor weakness can also lead to pain around the hip, low and upper back pain, knee pain, ankle sprains and ACL vulnerabilities. In spite of the vast implications of pelvic floor dysfunction, many women are only partially informed, believing Kegel exercises to be the only solution. However, contrary to popular belief, “Kegeling” or holding the pelvic floor artificially is not the most effective method.

Although Kegels have their place in rehabilitation and conditioning protocols, recent studies show that pelvic floor dysfunction is addressed best by functional movements like squats and gentle full body exercises such as in Pilates. That is because nerves and muscles communicate most efficiently while performing full range motions that are similar to the body’s everyday actions. Moreover, health professionals are still uncertain about the number of individuals who can actually engage the pelvic floor muscles correctly and evenly, if at all.  It is troubling to think that as of today, the most prominent academic contribution to pelvic floor dysfunction dates back to studies by Dr. Kegel in 1952.

Discussion is vital

Too many women’s health issues are silent morbidities, lacking the exposure and discussion they deserve. Although countless women are affected in some way from pelvic floor dysfunction, many neglect to report their symptoms and even less would be diagnosed and treated.  Still, women do not have to suffer silently.

Most physicians are now educated enough to recommend further tests or refer appropriate patients to pelvic physiotherapists who specialize in women’s health. Pilates or similar exercise that is guided and purposeful has been proven to be beneficial to pelvic floor health. A strong pelvic floor will support an active life style and help sustain appropriate body mechanics so women can thrive in every aspect of life.

Note:  Please seek the advice of your physician prior to resuming or commencing any physical activity regimen.

 *Ayelet Feig is the owner of ReformFit Pilates studio in Tarzana and Pilates Fitness Personal Training in Encino. She started her wellness journey while earning a Public Health degree from Berkeley, where she volunteered at the university’s physical therapy clinic. It was here that she first discovered the power of corrective exercise and Pilates. After graduating, Ayelet became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist under the NSCA and worked as a Physical Therapy Technician and Personal Trainer at Layfield Physical Therapy in Encino. She received her Pilates certification in 2010 from BASI’s (Body Arts and Science International) comprehensive teaching program in Los Angeles. Ayelet enjoys hiking, traveling with her husband and being a mother to her daughter Libby and dog Stella. Her goal is to improve lives by helping individuals discover the joy of movement, develop body awareness and to create positive fitness experiences that are effective, safe and enjoyable for all levels.

*Ayelet Feig is the owner of ReformFit Pilates studio in Tarzana and Pilates Fitness Personal Training in Encino. She earned a Public Health degree from Berkeley, where she first discovered the power of corrective exercise and Pilates. After graduating, Ayelet became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist under the NSCA and worked as a Physical Therapy Technician and Personal Trainer at Layfield Physical Therapy in Encino. She received her Pilates certification in 2010 from BASI’s (Body Arts and Science International) comprehensive teaching program in Los Angeles. Her goal is to improve lives by helping individuals discover the joy of movement, develop body awareness and to create positive fitness experiences that are effective, safe and enjoyable for all levels.


It was ‘all hands on deck’ when my mother, Judy Krape, came to town for a welcome visit earlier this month.  Mom, like me, is from Melbourne ‘down under’ and a fabulous foodie.  I credit her with my love of food and the desire to give my daughter, Mayani, the best food possible as she begins her life’s journey.

Judy qualified as a food handler in California before joining me in the Tummy Thyme kitchen.

Thanks Mom!



The following article by Talia Krape appeared in a recent edition of Red Tricycle:

There are many stages in the development of our children.  Each stage can be as challenging as it can be exciting.  But perhaps few are quite as challenging and exciting as a baby’s transition from being breast or bottle fed to solids.

It not only marks a milestone in their development, but it raises a number of very important issues that parents should consider.  Foremost is recognition that the food we serve to our babies will, in all likelihood, inform their eating habits as they grow and mature into adulthood.

In my work as a childbirth educator, I often touch on my top ten tips (the *The Tummy Thyme 101s) to make the feeding of solids a success.  I would like to share these with you.

  1. Incredible opportunity to share the world of food with your baby

Introducing solids makes this transition a positive experience for both you and your baby.  It is important to understand that babies are motivated by curiosity not hunger.  At this stage in their development, it is very much about the sensory experience – tastes, textures, bright colors and smells.  We know that early positive experiences with food help to set your child up for good eating habits throughout their life (one of your most important legacies as a parent).  Consider the idea of a ‘flavor window’, when a baby is more open than at any other stage in their life to trying new things. While it can be a daunting experience for some parents, introducing solid foods to your baby is straightforward and natural.

  1. Start around 6 months, or when your baby exhibits cues

Things to watch out for include good head control; the ability for your baby to sit on his/her own; showing an interest in food, for example, when they reach for food, open their mouth when offered food, being able to swallow food, and ability to remove food from the spoon without it all dribbling out.  It is important to note that different pediatricians have different recommendations about when and what to start with, so consult with the person you trust.

  1. Continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed

Breast milk or formula is the primary source of nutrition until around 12 months of age.  At the beginning of the transition phase, the emphasis should be on play and exploration rather than eating.  Consider also that breast milk has varied flavors, whereas formula milk has a single flavor.  This might mean that the breastfed baby is more adventurous at the outset, but there are no long-term implications on food choices.

  1. It doesn’t really matter what you feed your baby first, as long as it is an enjoyable experience for you both

Some parents take a reasonably conservative approach with the introduction of solids, preferring to limit the choice to rice cereal/singular ingredients.  Other parents let the baby dictate the food they will try (within limits, of course).  It is very important to remain neutral during feeding, so avoid positive or negative responses to the food you serve.  Your child will cultivate his or her own monitor for likes/dislikes/hunger/fullness.

  1. How do I feed my baby? 

Let the fun (and mess) begin!  Start by offering a couple of spoonfuls of puree (and add some breast milk or formula into the mixture).  Ideally, try this when your baby is in a good mood and not ravenous, maybe an hour after feeding.  If your baby doesn’t seem interested, try again a week or two later.

  1. Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t like something

If your baby doesn’t seem interested in certain foods, don’t be disheartened. Research shows it can take up to 15 times of trying a food before we can be certain if they like it or not.  Continue to offer foods your baby doesn’t love right away, perhaps even mixed with other foods they enjoy. If you are persistent, most babies will eventually like most foods.

  1. Choose fresh, wholesome, organic whenever possible

Buying organic food is one of the best ways to limit your baby’s exposure to toxic, persistent pesticides (as well as to antibiotics, artificial growth hormones and GMOs).  There is a difference between fresh and shelf-stable foods (nutrient-dense vs. energy dense), which can take up to two years before they reach the supermarket.  Budget often dictates what we buy and the frequency that we buy it.  But in my experience, it is possible to buy fresh, wholesome and organic ingredients relatively cheaply at local markets or online via trusted suppliers.  If you cannot buy it all of the time, even some of the time is a better option than never.

  1. Be flexible

A baby’s food preferences change from day to day as will their appetite.  This can be the result of teething, illness, and a host of other reasons.  Take the pressure off by allowing yourself to be flexible to meet your baby’s changing moods and needs.

  1. Introduce a variety of tastes and textures, herbs and spice 

Different cultures have different foods so we should avoid limiting a baby’s diet to one specific st‌yle of food preparation. What a wonderful opportunity to start your baby’s journey of culinary discovery by introducing different types of food at an early age.

  1. Trust your baby – they know how to regulate their own appetite
Mindful eating is very important; avoid television or other distractions that can compromise the enjoyment of eating.  Eating together as a family is very important.  It isn’t always practical, but try to find a common time for the family to sit together and, as your baby matures, to serve the same food so that the meal is truly a shared experience.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published