As exciting as air travel can be, going through security before a flight and dealing with the Transportation Security Administration screening machines is never fun for anyone. Pregnant women in the past had every right to be worried about the airport security scanners the TSA required passengers to pass through. But the technology used by the TSA has evolved, and expecting women no longer need to be concerned that the full-body scanners might harm their babies.
Why Pregnant Women Must Be Screened
While it would be nice to exempt certain classes of people, such as pregnant women, from the screening process, unfortunately, that can't be done. The TSA must treat every passenger going through security screening equally to ensure that no one sneaks anything onto the plane that they aren't supposed to. It wouldn't be fair to let pregnant travelers pass through without being checked, as there have been instances of people pretending to be pregnant so they could hide something dangerous on their bellies.
In the past, the TSA's scanning devices used X-rays to thoroughly check passengers going through security. Because X-rays and the radiation they give off are harmful to everyone, especially pregnant women whose babies are most vulnerable, the TSA switched to advanced imaging technology. This body scan technology has been tested by third parties and approved by the Food and Drug Administration to confirm that the screening is not harmful to pregnant women. Instead of relying on X-rays, the machines use metal detectors and non-ionizing electromagnetic waves that are reflected off the body to obtain the required images without harming those who are scanned or causing blood flow issues like blood clots, high blood pressure, or unnecessary radiation exposure.
Opting for a Pat-Down
Even though scanners are now completely safe for pregnant women, those who still feel uncomfortable have the right to opt out of being screened and choose to undergo a pat-down instead. To do this, simply alert the TSA officer of your concerns. The officer will lead you around the machine to a female TSA agent who will perform the pat-down, using the backs of her hands to check sensitive areas.
Airport Experience for Pregnant Women
Besides all of the screening concerns, pregnant women probably have many other concerns regarding their travels. The TSA, along with other airport staff, can make the experience at the airport much more comfortable for pregnant women. For example, those who physically need assistance getting through the airport via a wheelchair or priority boarding have the right to receive this kind of help. Just ask! You can also request an aisle seat or longer seatbelt to avoid a cut-off of circulation, which can be helpful for long international flights with high altitudes.
Consult a Doctor
Any pregnant woman who plans to travel soon should see her doctor before making any plans. A doctor can best determine how to go about traveling based on your specific situation. No two pregnancies are the same, and your doctor can answer questions about travel experiences and what's safest for mom and baby.