Avoid High Altitudes if You’re Expecting

Written by yvonnethornton on January 24th, 2013

If you’ve ever tried baking at a high altitude, you know that the decreased oxygen is truly enough to ruin a batch of cookies. When we travel to destinations that are 7,000 feet above sea level or more, our surroundings change drastically because there is less oxygen there than closer to the ground. You can imagine then the negative effects high altitude might have on women who are pregnant. Oxygen is absolutely vital to a baby’s development, which is why activities like smoking are so dangerous. Does this mean women who live at high altitudes have to move when they become pregnant?

If you’re pregnant and you live in a high altitude area such as Denver, you do not need to move to an area with more oxygen. Since you spend all of your time at that level, you’re used to the oxygen level, and your body has already adjusted itself to accommodate. Besides, high areas in the United States like Denver are only around 5,000 feet above sea level. Even women who are used to these high altitudes shouldn’t be traveling to areas any higher than what they’re used to though. If you’re pregnant and accustomed to lower lands, do not travel to high altitudes. Studies show that you could easily restrict oxygen flow to the baby by doing so, which could have serious consequences such as impaired fetal growth, preeclampsia, and fetal mortality. If you must travel to an area at a higher altitude while pregnant, make sure you take things very slowly and check in with your doctor beforehand. If you start to feel lightheaded or weak, sit down and spend as little time in the location as possible.

For the most part, travel during your pregnancy is safe, assuming you’re not going to be miles away from medical care around your due date. However, traveling to high altitudes you’re not used to could be dangerous because your baby needs as much oxygen as possible during your pregnancy. If you’re already used to high altitudes, don’t feel as though you need to move. Assuming you’ve been there for at least a few months, your body has already adjusted to meet the demands of lower oxygen levels.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


Leave a Comment