Sometimes we need a holiday, and sometimes travel is unavoidable.
Taking a plane ride during pregnancy can seem a little daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are our top tips for flying while pregnant.
In this article: 📝
- Can you fly while pregnant?
- Flying while pregnant: airline rules
- What are the risks of flying while pregnant?
- Flying during pregnancy at different stages
- Flying while pregnant during COVID
Can you fly while pregnant?
Not literally, obviously, although it would make up for some of the less glamorous aspects of pregnancy.
But in an airplane? Yes. It’s generally safe to fly for most of your pregnancy.
If you have any concerns, or you need to travel during your third trimester, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before you set off, as there are some things to be aware of if you’re traveling during your pregnancy.
Flying while pregnant: airline rules
Doctors, airlines, and mamas-to-be generally agree that the middle pregnancy, between 14 and 28 weeks, is the easiest time to travel.
If you need to, can you fly at 30 weeks pregnant? Or even later? Every airline’s policy is different. If you’re complication-free, a lot of airlines will let you fly until 36 weeks, or 32 weeks if you’re expecting twins.
After the 28th week though (i.e. if you’re flying during your third trimester), you’ll need a signed note from your doctor confirming your due date and that it’s safe for you to travel.
From a doctor’s point of view, whether or not it’s safe to fly during pregnancy depends on:
- The length of your flight
- How you’re feeling
- Whether you have any pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, bleeding, high blood pressure, etc.
- Your destination — what the hospitals are like, how remote it is, whether the Zika virus is a concern etc.
- Whether any vaccines you need to travel are approved for use during pregnancy.
What are the risks of flying while pregnant?
Many parents-to-be are concerned about the metal detectors and scanners used in airport security. Well, you can take this off your list of worries.
The scanners don’t use x-rays or anything else that could harm your little peanut.
It’s still your choice, though, and most security staff will let you request a pat-down if you would prefer.
From the airline’s point of view, the main risk is that you’re going to go into labor mid-flight.
There’s nothing about flying that increases the risk of this happening, and most flight attendants have quite a high level of first aid training, but it does put you a lot farther from a hospital (and you’ll probably find yourself with a slot on the evening news).
The biggest risk of flying and pregnancy is actually blood clots.
If you’re taking a flight longer than four hours, your doctor might advise you to wear special compression socks to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), especially later in your pregnancy.
A DVT is a clot in your leg, which causes pain and swelling, and can sometimes cause further complications if it breaks apart and travels to your lung.
While it’s not technically a risk, the issue with flying during pregnancy is that it makes everything that’s already uncomfortable about traveling seem a lot worse.
Standing in queues means that you’re more likely to feel dizzy.
Waiting for a long time between meals makes you more likely to feel sick, and having the person in front lean all the way back is even more annoying when you and your bump are already squished into an economy seat.
Flying during pregnancy at different stages
Tips for traveling in the first trimester
Can you fly in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy?
Yes. But, depending on your symptoms, it might not be that much fun.
Here are some tips to make flying and pregnancy a little easier to combine.
- Ask: You probably don’t look pregnant yet, so people won’t automatically offer you a seat. Don’t be afraid to ask them to move, especially if their suitcase is taking up a seat in the departure lounge.
- Eat: If you’re struggling with nausea and exhaustion, the temptation might be to go for options where the flight is over as fast as possible. Instead, try to opt for flights with a layover long enough to have a meal and get some rest.
- Hydrate: It’s always dry in the cabin and you can get dehydrated faster than you think. Fizzy drinks make pregnancy bloating worse, even when you’re not at 30,000 feet, so it’s best to choose still beverages if you can.
- Stretch: Get an aisle seat if you can so you have a little more space and walk around regularly.
- Check: Before you leave, make sure your travel insurance covers any medical costs that might come up while you’re away. Obviously, we hope that you’ll never have to use this information, but it’s good to be prepared.
Tips for traveling in late pregnancy
What about taking a flight during pregnancy in your third trimester?
If you are flying late into your pregnancy though, this is how to make it easier:
- Take your medical notes with you in case a complication comes up while you’re away from your regular doctor.
- Research hospitals at your destination, and maybe even learn some vocabulary to explain your situation in the local language, if it isn’t English.
- Hydrate, do ankle exercises in your seat and wear support socks to reduce the risk of a blood clot.
- Wear your seatbelt under your bump so that you and your baby are safe and comfortable.
- Get up to move around every 30 minutes if you can.
Flying while pregnant during COVID
Of course, COVID is making travel more difficult at the moment.
If you have to fly, airports and airlines have many measures in place to make it as safe as possible. But it might be worth asking yourself whether you really have to take a flight during COVID.
The Coronavirus can have a worse effect on pregnant women, whose immune systems are lowered and whose lungs are already doing some extra work, but the vaccination is also a great protection for you and your little one.
It’s also worth researching whether your airline has a mask exemption for pregnant women.
Some will allow you to take it off if you have a note from your doctor, while others are not accepting medical exemption certificates.
Again, it depends on your airline, your destination, and the length of your flight.
But ultimately, the choice is up to you and your doctor.
Bon voyage, mama.
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