Female airline pilots have an area of medical concern that male pilots don't deal with: reproductive issues. If a female airline pilot operating at an air carrier in the United States of America under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were to become pregnant, how would this affect her standing with a first class medical and in general with operations at most airlines?
As long as the pilot is having a first class medical, her pregnancy should have no effect on the operations, at least legally, though the regulations differ from country to country.
- I'm not aware of any FAA regulations that prohibit pilot ing during pregnancy. The closest it comes is in 14 CFR § 61.53 - Prohibition on operations during medical deficiency, which says (noting that pregnancy is not a medical deficiency in any way and the regulation is taken here in the widest sense) that:
(a) Operations that require a medical certificate. Except as provided for in paragraph (b) of this section, no person who holds a medical certificate issued under part 67 of this chapter may act as pilot in command, or in any other capacity as a required pilot flight crewmember, while that person:
(1) Knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make the person unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation
As long as the pilot feels that she is medically fit and has a valid medical certificate, they can't be legally prevented from flying the aircraft.
- In case of other regulattions (like EASA), pregnant women are not allowed to pilot after 26 weeks of pregnance. For example, UK Aviation Authority says:
(1) In the case of pregnancy, if the AeMC or AME considers that the licence holder is fit to exercise her privileges, he/she shall limit the validity period of the medical certificate to the end of the 26th week of gestation. After this point, the certificate shall be suspended. The suspension shall be lifted after full recovery following the end of the pregnancy.
(2) Holders of class 1 medical certificates shall only exercise the privileges of their licences until the 26th week of gestation with an OML.
There are a number of medical issues that the pilot should be aware of while pregnant, so that appropriate measures could be taken, like,
Ability to move the controls to their full extent.
Ability to wear seat belts.
Effect of high altitude operation on the foetus
among others. The airline policy will vary and they have to consider a number of other conditions- for example, the ability of flight crew to egress during a crash etc.
Here is a decent article from AOPA on the matter (covers the topic from an FAA/USA standpoint). Looks like legally they don't have to say anything and they can't legally be pulled
The law is on their side, too. In the early 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that unless a woman voluntarily disclosed her pregnancy to her employer, she couldn't be switched out of her job to one that carries less risk to her fetus. Essentially this means that a woman has the right to decide when to declare she is pregnant to her employer, and to stay in her position even if it may cause harm to the developing fetus.
It also seems like the regulations vary from airline to airline,
Few airlines today ban first trimester flying (from the time of conception through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy). Most, along with the military, permit flying through the second trimester (24 to 28 weeks) during an uncomplicated pregnancy. A few companies have no written policy and handle their pilots' pregnancies and leave issues on a case-by-case basis.
The article goes on to cover most of the topics related to this pretty comprehensively and is worth a read.
Of course there are some general medical concerns that any mother should take into account.
I am a pregnant pilot with an ATPL in Australia where we are allowed to legally fly until the end of our 30th week. I'm currently at my 27th week and definitely still feel fit to fly, I just had my Class 1 medical Renewal and my Doctor said he would be more than happy to sign me off to fly for longer but the CASA regulation is firm. I myself still feel fit to fly and am lucky that I have crew that load bags and do the heavy lifting so to speak.
This is not specific to aviation, and I don't know the rules for countries other than Germany.
I was just starting to argue about radiation doses, but this turns out not to be an issue in most cases:
An average pilot / FA receives a dose of about 2 mSv / year (worker in nuclear power plant: 1mSv/y). An embryo / fetus is not allowed to collect more than 1mSv during the entire pregancy. This would not happen if the much larger mother collects 2mSv in one year, but there are still special precaution requirements. For example, the received dose has to be measured weekly instead of monthly.
But our law gives even more. For example, after the 3rd month, a pregnant woman is not allowed to work on any means of transport, which an aircraft definitely is. And in general, pregnant woman are not allowed to do a job where they have to lift / push / move weights over 5kg permanently or 10kg occasionally.
Due to this laws, pregnant women have to be grounded immediately, no matter what the airline says.