Flying while pregnant: your questions answeredWe've rounded up the rules, regulations and risks - plus tips on how to make flying during pregnancy a (reasonably) comfortable experience
Pregnant women travel by air every day, and there's no evidence that doing so is harmful to you or your baby.
What do the airlines say?
Every airline has its own particular policy, but typical regulations are in-line with the RCOG guidelines and are outlined below. It is essential you communicate with your airline, if possible prior to booking, to confirm their exact requirements.
- For a straightforward pregnancy you can travel up to your 28th week as normal. You don't need to tell anyone, although it's a good idea to discuss your plans with either your midwife or doctor.
- After 28 weeks, you'll need your doctor to complete a pregnancy information form - which essentially confirms your due date and that you are in good health.
- After 36 weeks, you'll struggle to find any airline willing to carry you, unless there are exceptional mitigating circumstances (typically, urgent medical or compassionate reasons). In these cases, airlines will insist on further medical consultation, and could request you travel with medically qualified attendants.
- For multiple pregnancies, the rules are tighter, with travel limited to 32 weeks.
- ALWAYS check your airline's policy on pregnancy first...
Pregnancy information form: what is it and how do I get one?
Some airlines provide template pregnancy information forms - if yours doesn't, download our template here.
Your airline will advise when they need to see this – it may just be at check-in, or you may be required to send a copy beforehand.
All GP surgeries have their own guidelines on charges, appointments and timings for this, so contact yours well in advance of your trip.
It's sensible to take your antenatal notes with you, too. Not only will you need them in case of an emergency, but, as one Mumsnetter explains, you may need to 'prove' you're not as far gone as the airline thinks:
"At the boarding gate an officer questioned how far along I was and didn't believe I was only 24 weeks' pregnant. She demanded a note from my doctor, which of course I didn't have, then decided I wasn't allowed to board the plane without the captain's authority. So the poor captain had to pay me a visit. He had no idea what a 24- or 28-weeks' pregnant woman looked like! Luckily I remembered I happened to have my 20-week scan photo in my purse."
What about potential risks?
While flying in pregnancy generally isn't risky, there are a few possible issues of which it's wise to be aware. The more common of these include:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Long-distance travel (more than five hours) carries an increased risk of blood clots (thrombosis), and pregnant women have a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. There are precautions you can take to minimise your risk, such as keeping yourself hydrated, moving as much as possible, doing specific exercises, and wearing DVT tights/socks - Mumsnetters also report that these are very good for varicose veins!
- Jetlag: Mumsnetters say this can seem worse in pregnancy, so bear in mind you may need longer to recover.
- Pulled ligaments: Lifting heavy objects is a no-no during pregnancy; now's the time to pack a capsule wardrobe. If nothing else, do ensure you won't be carrying on heavy hand luggage.
- Premature labour overseas: This is the greatest risk – hence the restriction on flying once your pregnancy is at term (37 weeks). While flying itself won't bring on labour, babies can and do arrive early - so ensure you're happy with your decision to travel.
There may be some circumstances when it is advised not to fly and you should discuss any concerns or existing medical conditions directly with your midwife or GP. For example, if your pregnancy has been deemed 'high-risk' or there is a risk of you going into labour before your due date.
How can I make the flight more comfortable?
As your pregnancy progresses, sitting comfortably for 10 minutes - never mind 10 hours - can feel like a challenge. However, there are some simple things you can do to make flying while pregnant more bearable. Mumsnetters recommend that you:
- Drink more water than usual - at least two to three litres in 24 hours – and move around the cabin during the flight. Helpfully, these two go hand in hand; increase your fluid intake and you'll need to get up to visit the loo more than usual.
- Ask for an aisle seat if you can, to make getting out of your seat easier.
- Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes.
- Adjust your seatbelt so the strap lies below your bump.
- Take your own snacks to ensure you're prepared for pregnancy hunger pangs.
Finally, don't forget to read the small print on your travel insurance. Some insurers won't cover pregnant women over 30 weeks; others won't cover pregnant women at all. You must check you're adequately covered and depending on where you are travelling to, you might want to consider taking out additional cover.
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Last updated: 6 months ago