Can you fly while pregnant? It depends

Want to plan a trip but not sure if you should jump on a plane when you’re pregnant? Is it okay to fly while pregnant? Until what time can you fly pregnant abroad? What are the important considerations when booking?

The short answer: Flying while pregnant is possible, as long as you and your doctor align on what’s safe for you and your baby.

That said, flying while pregnant can be a bit trickier, especially if you’re planning a trip close to your due date. Here’s what to keep in mind when planning your next air excursion and travel while pregnant.

Is it safe to fly while pregnant?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, most people who have a healthy pregnancy can travel by air until fairly close to their due date.

Proximity depends on several factors, including your health care provider’s recommendations and airline rules, which vary from carrier to carrier.

So if you are planning a trip, talk to your doctor first before booking a ticket, as people who are experiencing high-risk pregnancies may be advised not to travel.

Your provider can perform an exam, check medical records and advise you when, where and how far you should travel. Every pregnancy is different and your doctor will consider your specific needs and concerns.

🤓Nerdy tip

Keep in mind that you can fly almost any time during your pregnancy, although airline restrictions may prevent you from flying too close to your due date.

If you have been cleared to travel, ACOG recommends doing so in the second trimester, between 14 and 28 weeks. This is because morning sickness may have lessened by then and the risk of miscarriage is less. Moving around or sitting for long periods during your last trimester can also become uncomfortable.

Flight restrictions for pregnant passengers

Airline policies regarding pregnant travelers vary, but most do not require any special documentation until the end of the pregnancy.

  • United Airlines allows pregnant travelers to board without medical documentation before their 36th week of pregnancy.

  • American airlines allows pregnant passengers to travel without papers up to four weeks before their due date.

  • South West Airlines does not require any special documentation, but does not recommend travel after 38 weeks.

As you get closer to your due date, you’ll need to check with your airline, as many require special clearances to fly.

For example, on American Airlines, you will need a doctor’s note to travel within the country within four weeks of your due date. For international travel, you will also need approval from a Special Assistance Coordinator.

Airlines can provide specific advice on what documentation is required, but this is usually a certificate from an obstetrician that you are fit to travel by air on the dates of your trip.

Depending on the airline, the certificate may need to be dated within 48 or 72 hours of your scheduled departure, so you’ll need to plan ahead.

Whichever airline you’re flying with, check the restrictions and requirements if you’re booking towards the end of your third trimester.

When not to fly during pregnancy

While many pregnant travelers can hop on a plane, there are others who should avoid air travel or exercise caution about it.

This is especially true for those with the following conditions:

  • History of blood clots or heart disease.

  • History of miscarriage, premature labor or ectopic pregnancy.

  • Those who carry twins or other multiples.

  • First-time mothers over the age of 35.

This list is not exhaustive, so it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor to find out if air travel is safe for you.

Pregnant travelers should also choose their destinations carefully. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women stay away from any area at high risk of contracting Zika or malaria or any place where live vaccines are required or recommended for travel.

How long should your flight be if you are traveling while pregnant? The UK’s National Health Service states that flying for more than four hours carries a low risk of blood clots.

So not only will a shorter flight be more comfortable, but it will also be safer for you and your baby.

Can you fly abroad while pregnant?

According to the CDC, some airlines will allow you to fly internationally for up to 36 weeks, but others may have an earlier cut. As a general rule, it is wise to check each airline’s policies regarding international flights during pregnancy.

For example, British Airways allows passengers with an infant to fly until the end of the 36th week (or the end of the 32nd week if you are pregnant with more than one infant). In the meantime, Delta Airlines has no requirements for pregnant passengers and only recommends consulting your doctor before flying.

In short: the time at which you can fly abroad pregnant varies from airline to airline.

🤓Nerdy tip

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Tips for flying during pregnancy

Flying while pregnant can look and feel different, so to make the trip as pleasant as possible, consider taking a few extra precautions before heading to the airport.

  • Talk to your doctor about vaccines and immunizations: Depending on where you’re headed, it’s important to make sure you’re up to date on important vaccines.

  • Reduce your risk of poor circulation: Stay hydrated, wear loose clothing, get up to stretch or walk the aisle often, and ask your doctor if you should wear compression socks.

  • Book an aisle seat: This will give you the flexibility to get up, move around and use the bathroom as often as you need without disturbing your seat neighbors. Otherwise, use this time as an excuse to book a first class ticket.

  • Bring a well-stocked first aid kit: While every traveler can benefit from a first aid kit, pregnant travelers may want to add items like nausea medication, hemorrhoid cream, yeast infection treatment, personal medications and prenatal vitamins.

  • Know where the closest hospital to your destination is: Hopefully you won’t need to visit during your trip, but knowing where it is can help ensure you can get medical treatment quickly if needed.

  • Consider buying travel insurance: If complications arise while you are away from home, including premature delivery, travel insurance can bring peace of mind. It can also save you money if you need to get home quickly for medical reasons. Just be sure to get a travel insurance policy that suits your needs.

Flying during pregnancy, recap

Flying while pregnant is okay for most people during most pregnancies.

That said, before you book your ticket, check with your doctor to make sure you’re cleared to travel. Additionally, review airline restrictions and requirements and make plans to help you be more comfortable during the flight.

Following these steps will help you have a safe and enjoyable experience whether you’re traveling across the country or around the world.

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