baby

When a baby's born on a plane: here's all the logistics of giving birth mid-flight.

A woman has given birth to a baby boy during a three-hour JetBlue flight from Puerto Rico to Florida.

The airline tweeted a confirmation of the incident, and made a statement to People:

“We’d like to thank the crew and medical professionals on board for their quick action under pressure, and wish the new mother and son all the best.

“Flight 1954 was operated on aircraft N523JB, coincidentally named, ‘Born To Be Blue.’”

It would have been an exciting and scary experience for the mother; but what does it mean for the baby? What are the logistics of when a baby is born mid-flight?

If a baby is born on a plane what is its nationality?

“There are several different factors to take into account when a child is born on a flight,” Vaibhav Tanwar, an immigration and nationality law specialist, told Traveller magazine.

Firstly, there’s an international Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness agreement, and if the country the flight is from has signed that, then the nationality of the child will be the country in which the plane is registered.

And if the country is not part of the agreement? Then the baby’s nationality will be the location of the aeroplane at the time of delivery.

However, if that country denies the child citizenship, then the child can take the nationality of the mother or the father.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has more information about international births on their website Smartraveller.

LISTEN: Zoe Marshall talks about her family planning on Mamamia’s latest podcast for new parents, The Baby Bubble.

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What’s the airline protocol if your baby is born mid-flight?

There is limited protocol around what to do if a woman goes into labour mid-flight, because the scenario is so rare.

“Flight attendants are not trained to deliver babies,” flight attendant and author James Wysong said.

“We are required to watch a video on the birthing process,” he added, explaining that an attendant’s main role is to alert the Captain and “call for a medical professional to come forward”.

The onboard staff then make an assessment as to whether an emergency landing is required – if the baby isn’t in a hurry.

What should you consider if you’re concerned about giving birth on a plane?

Dr Philippa Costley, a Melbourne obstetrician/gynaecologist and spokesperson for RANZCOG (the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists), told Mamamia it depends on whether a flight is domestic or international, as well as the length of flight.

“Once a baby is viable, which is after 24 weeks, I normally advise against travelling to countries with limited resources,” she said.

“Interstate travel I normally don’t recommend after 36 weeks. I recommend staying local, as the risk of delivery increases after that time.”

These are the other important factors to consider, according to Dr Costley:

1. Clots: “The risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (a blood clot which forms in the veins of the leg) is higher when you’re pregnant, so it’s important to reduce that risk by wearing compression stockings, walking around the cabin, and drinking water to stay hydrated.”

2. Insurance: “If travelling overseas, check if your travel insurance will cover pregnancy.”

3. Costs: “All countries have different arrangements with Australia and medical costs, and it’s important to inform yourself of those.”

4. Destination: “Consider your destination carefully. Are you travelling where there is risk of the Zika virus, for example? Check online with Smartraveller.”

5. Food safety: “When you’re pregnant, you have a higher chance of food-related illnesses such as gastroenteritis. Sometimes the hygiene and food preparation standards in a foreign country isn’t the same as in Australia, so you need to consider this and understand what you’re eating.”

6. Medical care: “Research whether or not you’re comfortable with the level of care available in the destination. Not every country has the same availability of care as Australia.”

Have you flown whilst being pregnant? Tell us in the comments below.

If you’d like to hear more from Nama Winston, see her stories here, and subscribe to her weekly Mamamia Parents newsletter here.

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