Typically it’s perfectly safe to fly when you’re pregnant, provided you’re still in your first or second trimester and have had no medical problems.
Many women find flying easiest during the second trimester, or weeks 14 to 27, because they’re less likely to be experiencing morning sickness by this time and energy levels are usually good.
When is it NOT safe to fly?
It’s not generally considered safe to travel once you enter the third trimester, at week 36.
Also, if you’ve had any medical issues, such as spotting, diabetes, high blood pressure or placental abnormalities, or are considered at risk of going into premature labour, you should speak to your doctor before you consider flying.
Airline and airport regulations
Different airlines have different regulations about carrying women who are pregnant. Some allow pregnant women to fly up to week 36. Others are unwilling to carry women passengers who are more than 28 weeks pregnant. A single airline’s regulations may also differ for different flight routes, so it’s important to ask what restrictions apply before you purchase a ticket.
Ticket agents aren’t likely to ask if you’re pregnant when you book a flight, but if you’re visibly pregnant, you might be questioned at the departure gate. The best way to avoid delays is to carry a letter from your doctor or midwife, specifying that you’ve been examined and are highly unlikely to go into labour in the next few days.
General risks and precautions
It’s worth considering how your pregnancy will affect your experience of flying, especially if you’re late in your second trimester and considering a long-haul flight. Sitting in an aeroplane seat for long periods is uncomfortable even if you’re not pregnant, especially if you’re an economy passenger. As someone who’s pregnant, you may be doubly uncomfortable. You might also find it difficult to manoeuvre narrow aisles and to get a seat belt to fit.
If you can, book an aisle seat so that you don’t have to clamber over other passengers to get to the toilets.
If you’re pregnant, you’re naturally at higher risk of certain medical conditions – on or off a plane. Accordingly, it’s important to take all your medical notes with you, including any insurance documentation and a list of emergency phone numbers, including one for your midwife or obstetrician.
During pregnancy, it’s likely you’ll be more prone than normal to swelling during a flight. It’s a good idea to wear loose clothing on the plane, remove any rings before you travel and avoid crossing your legs during the flight.
It’s possible that you may experience travel sickness even if you don’t normally, so it can be worth buying some travel sickness bands to wear and carrying some crystallised ginger to nibble on to alleviate the symptoms.
Thrombosis and varicose veins
Sitting still for many hours on long-haul flights increases the risks of thrombosis – or blood clots – and varicose veins for all people, but pregnant women are at higher than average risk.
To help avoid these conditions, you should
- wear a good pair of medical support stockings, also known as compression stockings; to get the maximum protection from them, you should put them on in the morning when you get out of bed and keep them on for the whole day
- move as much as possible; walk up and down the aisle every hour or so and regularly stretch and flex your legs and feet
- stay well hydrated; drink plenty of fluids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol
Relax and enjoy your flight
Finally, if you are pregnant and considering a flight, take the time to relax and enjoy a holiday before your baby arrives!