Flying after fertility treatment is a very common question brought up by many patients. Often times, a mixed or incomplete perspective is given both from the provider and from online sources. This blog post will aim to clarify this.
Is radiation exposure dangerous?
Now at first, the thought of radiation exposure leads to foreboding thoughts in many people. Let’s make it clear that radiation is all around us and we are exposed to it 24/7, 365 days per year. Our bodies have powerful tools that protect us from this background radiation. One of the factors that influences the amount of radiation we receive is where we live; the higher up we live, the less atmosphere there is to protect us from radiation from space. While you’re on a plane, there is a whole lot less atmosphere blocking this radiation.
Onto the next question, how much more radiation do we get when we fly? Well before we answer that question, we first need to understand that radiation really gets dangerous when we go past a certain total dose over a year. Compared to the dose we get in one year from background radiation, a coast-to-coast flight is about 1/10 of the background radiation in that time.
Can radiation exposure affect my embryo?
Now that we know what the level of radiation exposure is, can it do anything to an embryo? In a nutshell, it shouldn’t. While there are no studies looking at flight effects on women immediately after fertility treatment, the body-of-knowledge we have is reassuring. As mentioned, a coast-to-coast flight adds only 10% to our yearly average radiation exposure. There are women who live in areas with much higher yearly background radiation (like Denver, Colorado) and there is no evidence of adverse effects in these women. Therefore, this 10% increase in one flight should not logically have a negative effect. Radiation intensity decreases as it passes through tissue; therefore the vast majority of radiation is absorbed by a woman’s body before it could ever reach an embryo.
In short, patients can fly after insemination or IVF. Implantation ultimately depends upon a healthy embryo finding the right spot in a healthy uterine lining. The success of the subsequent pregnancy depends upon factors that far outweigh any added radiation exposure from a flight.