Do not panic! It is it safe to fly when you are pregnant.
We have put together all the advice that you need to prepare for your air travel, at whatever stage your pregnancy is at.
Are you concerned about travelling by plane whilst you are pregnant?
Air Travel during your Pregnancy
To reassure you straight away, air travel is safe for pregnant women from Day 1 to 7 months. The World Health Organisation states that there is no contraindication to air travel for pregnant women in good health and whose pregnancy is proceeding normally.
If, however, you have experienced any medical complications during your pregnancy, for example spotting (small blood loss), diabetes, high blood pressure or if you have already given birth to a premature baby, we would advise you to consult your doctor for advice before travelling.
Air Travel in the First Trimester
We often read that it is not advisable to fly during the first trimester given the increased risk of miscarriages. This information has been around for a long time however, there is no evidence to support the fact that the risk of miscarriage is higher in flight during the first trimester. The risk of miscarriage itself is higher during the first trimester of pregnancy but flying does not increase this risk.
During the first trimester however travel could be uncomfortable as you may be experiencing nausea and have low energy levels.
Flying at 1 month pregnant:
At this stage there are no obvious physical changes or real physiological upheavals. You can travel comfortably and without risk to your pregnancy.
Flying at 2 months pregnant:
From week 4 your pregnancy hormones multiply, doubling almost every 24 hours. From week 5, the embryo begins to grow at high speed which can take a lot of energy from the mother, causing tiredness. Moods can also be affected so flying could be quite trying.
Your early symptoms of pregnancy: nausea, fatigue, bloating and heartburn can be exaggerated during a flight. To relieve your symptoms aim to eat smaller, frequent meals, drink plenty of water, add ginger root or lemon to your drinks and wear an anti-nausea bracelet.
Flying at 3 months pregnant:
The symptoms of the third month usually involve nausea and vomiting which can be magnified with altitude and make the flight uncomfortable. Your uterus has now reached the size of a grapefruit and puts more pressure on your bladder, making you feel like you have to urinate more often. Choosing an aisle seat will give you peace of mind so you don’t worry about having to rush to the toilet in an emergency.
Air Travel in the Second Trimester
From the second trimester (between weeks 14 and 27), flying becomes easier as your energy levels come back up, your nausea disappears and your stomach is small enough to sit comfortably for longer periods of time. It’s best to use this period if you need to take long-haul flights.
Flying at 4 months pregnant:
At 4 months you have more energy, and the nausea and vomiting is hopefully a distant memory. Your belly is rounded, your nails and your hair shine, you look and feel good. This is the best time to fly during your pregnancy. Make sure you drink lots of water and stretch your legs every hour to keep yourself comfortable.
Flying at 5 months pregnant:
In your fifth month, your baby is getting active, swapping between periods of movement and periods of rest. Your biggest problem is that baby’s rest hours can be unpredictable and might not match the hours of the flight. Reserving a seat with extra legroom will give you the space to get more rest and even some sleep.
Flying at 6 months pregnant:
Pregnant women can still travel by air without restriction in their sixth month. From week 23, you may begin to experience hot flashes and to sweat more than normal. Consider wearing light, loose fitting cotton clothing that you will be comfortable in for the duration of the flight. During the flight, take regular walks between the front and back of the plane to stretch your legs and keep your blood flow circulating.
Air Travel in the Third Trimester
Flying during the last trimester of pregnancy, especially during the last month, can begin to present risks. Most airlines will allow you to fly up to 36 weeks (the majority will ask you to provide a medical certificate stating that you are safe to travel). Some airlines do have stricter rules or guidelines so always check with the airline that you are planning to travel with.
Flying at 7 months pregnant:
Nothing prevents future mothers from taking flights at this stage although your stomach will be noticeably rounder. Flying has no impact on the baby but you can rest a cushion between your plump belly and the lower strap of the belt to avoid putting direct pressure on the baby.
Flying at 8 months pregnant:
At this final stage of your pregnancy, always seek the advice of your doctor or midwife to ensure that you are able to fly safely and double check with your airline. If you have experienced a premature birth before you may be recommended against taking a flight. Some airlines will not let mothers who are expecting more than one baby fly due to higher chances of a premature birth.
Flying at 9 months pregnant:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend air travel for four weeks before the expected delivery date and the majority of airlines follow these recommendations. If you urgently need to take a flight an airline may make an exception providing that you have the support of your doctor. Try to avoid any plans that would involve flying during your final month of pregnancy.
How to make your flight as comfortable as possible at any time during your pregnancy
- Book priority boarding so that you can board the plane and make yourself comfortable as quickly as possible.
- Reserve an aisle seat or an extra legroom seat (to give you easy toilet access and room to stretch out).
- Take regular walks up and down the aisle (at least once an hour) to keep your blood circulating.
- Keep your legs moving even when you are seated, rotating and pointing your feet to stretch out your legs to help prevent swelling.
- Wear compression stocking, especially if your doctor or midwife have advised you to do so.
- Wear comfy, loose, cotton clothes to keep you cool and comfortable.
- Keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Buckle the seatbelt underneath your belly or use a cushion between the seatbelt and your belly to keep direct pressure away from your baby.
Answers to frequently asked questions about air travel when you are pregnant
“Is it risky to fly on a plane when I am pregnant?”
In 2015, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the United Kingdom confirmed that travelling by plane poses no risk to the foetus or to the mother. Atmospheric pressure has no impact on the pregnancy, regardless of the month. Travelling by air will not induce miscarriage, premature birth or loss of water and statistically, air transportation is the safest form of transportation for pregnant women.
“Is there specific flight advice for pregnant women?”
Before a flight, consult your doctor, gynaecologist or midwife to make sure that flying is safe for your particular situation. If your pregnancy has any risks, such as history of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy your medical professional will double check to make sure everything is fine. At this point you can request a medical certificate in case it is needed by the airline.
When booking, try to reserve an aisle or extra legroom seat to give you space, comfort and access to movement. Check to see if your airline requires a medical certificate.
Once on your flight, remember to drink a lot of water, move every hour and try to keep calm from departure to arrival.
“Are compression stocking useful?”
Flying can increase the risk of varicose veins and thrombosis for everyone on a flight who is a seated position for a prolonged period of time but pregnant women may be particularly susceptible.
Several health authorities recommend that pregnant women wear compression stockings during flights and many doctors support this suggestion to avoid swelling of the lower limbs as a minimum.
“Are airport scanners dangerous?”
According to Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, airport scanner gates are considered safe for everyone, including pregnant women and their foetuses. The scanner gates do not use x-rays but instead use harmless electromagnetic fields to highlight the presence of metals. The amounts of radiation are considered to be negligible and harmless.
Conditions of Different Airlines
Each company has its own travel and pregnancy policy, although the majority do not encourage women to fly after the 7th month and generally refuse them to fly beyond the 36th week. Some companies request a medical certificate from the doctor or a midwife indicating the expected date of birth and confirming that the mother is safe to fly.
To make an Air France flight, you do not need a medical certificate. Air France does recommends consulting a doctor or midwife before taking the ticket and advises against travel from the 37th week of pregnancy.
With British Airways you cannot travel after the end of the 36th week if you are expecting a single baby, and after the end of the 32nd week if you are having a multiple pregnancy. You must also bring a medical certificate if any complications are expected during your pregnancy.
Brussels Airlines allow pregnant women to travel until the 36th week of pregnancy. They ask you to present a medical certificate stating that the pregnancy presents no complications and including the expected date of delivery and indicating that flying is safe for the patient. In the event of a risky pregnancy, the authorisation of a qualified doctor is
Emirates states that pregnant women can travel until their 36th week of pregnancy in the case of a single pregnancy, and the end of the 32nd week for a multiple pregnancy without complications. Following the 29th week, a medical certificate or a signed letter from the doctor is required, indicating whether the pregnancy is single or multiple, that it takes place without complications, that the mother is healthy and that flying is considered safe by the doctor. The company reserves the right to refuse access in case of doubt as to the ability of the pregnant woman to make the trip.
Easy Jet allows travel until the end of the 35th week for single pregnancies and the end of the 32nd week for multiple pregnancies. Pregnant women are also allowed to travel with a baby on their lap.
Until what week can I fly? 35th week (32nd week for multiple pregnancies)
Jetstar allow travel up the 36th week of pregnancy. For pregnancies beyond 28 weeks, Jetstar ask for a certificate or letter detailing the pregnancy from a medical professional dated no more than 10 days before the travel date.
KLM company requires written authorisation from a doctor for women who have encountered complications during their pregnancy. If you have a multiple pregnancy, they request you to consult your doctor beforehand. Flights are not recommended for pregnant women over 36 weeks.
Pregnant women can fly with Lufthansa without medical authorisation until the end of the 36th week as long as the pregnancy takes place without complications. They request a certificate from the 28th week of pregnancy and in case of multiple pregnancies, access to flights is possible until the 28th week. The company also recommends that future mothers wear compression stockings for the flight.
Pregnant women (with no complications) can fly with Qantas up to the end of the 36th week for single pregnancies and up to the end of the 32nd week for multiple pregnancies. If the pregnancy is at 28 weeks or more, the airline requires a note from their medical professional confirming the details of the pregnancy.
Ryanair ask for a medical certificate, completed by a doctor or midwife, to be presented at the boarding gate. Mothers of single pregnancies can fly up to the end of the 36th week and the end of the 32nd week if you are expecting twins, triplets or more.
Virgin allows women expecting a single child with no complications to fly with them up to the end of the 36th week. For women expecting more than one child, the allowance is the end of the 32rd week. Once the pregnancy reaches 28 weeks, Virgin requests a letter confirming the due date and pregnancy details that is dated a maximum of 10 days before travel.
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