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Flying during pregnancy

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Flying during pregnancy

Get clued up on airline restrictions when pregnant – and read our tips to make travelling as comfortable as possible for you and your bump

There is no reason to believe that flying when you’re pregnant can harm you or your baby, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

However, there are certain restrictions and precautions to take into account before booking an overseas trip during pregnancy.

If your pregnancy is straightforward, there is no evidence that flying on either long-haul or short-haul journeys will cause miscarriage, bring on early labour or cause your waters to break.

However, because the chances of labour starting are naturally higher from 37 weeks, or from 32 weeks if you are having twins or multiples, flying is not recommended from this point onwards and most airlines will not allow pregnant women to travel during this late stage.

If you have any pregnancy complications or are deemed to be at higher risk of going into labour before your due date, then you should speak to your doctor or midwife before travel to find out if it’s safe for you to fly.

When can I fly during pregnancy?

Most airlines will let you fly until 28 weeks of pregnancy (or the end of your second trimester) without any issue. From 28 weeks onwards, you may require a letter from your doctor to verify that you are fit for travel.

Very few airlines will allow pregnant women to fly after 36 weeks even if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy. If you’re pregnant with multiples, this restriction generally applies from 32 weeks.

Check with your airline (preferably before booking a flight, but at least before you travel) to ensure you have any documentation they require – you don’t want to be turned away at the check-in desk.

Most common airline regulations

This applies to pregnancies without any known complications.

  Single pregnancy Multiple pregnancy
Up to 28 weeks

Safe to travel

Safe to travel

28-32 weeks

Travel with a letter from your doctor

Travel with a letter from your doctor

32-36 weeks

Travel with a letter from your doctor

Not allowed to travel

After 36 weeks

Not allowed to travel

Not allowed to travel

There may be mitigating circumstances where special allowance is given to fly in the final weeks of pregnancy, but this would need to be approved by your airline in advance and you should always speak to a healthcare professional first.

What information do I need from my doctor?

Pregnancy information form or doctor’s letter

Speak to your GP or midwife in advance of your planned trip. They can complete a pregnancy information form or write you a letter which outlines:

  • whether you’re having a single or multiple pregnancy

  • that the pregnancy is progressing without complications

  • your estimated delivery date

  • the date up to which you are expected to be fit to travel

  • that there is no reason known to them that would prevent you from flying.

Individual GP practices have their own rules about charging for this service, so check if there’s a cost involved when booking your appointment.

It is also a good idea to take your maternity notes with you when travelling, as extra proof of how many weeks pregnant you are and just in case you need to see a doctor for any reason while abroad.

What travel insurance do I need?

A standard travel insurance policy may be enough to cover you when travelling early on in pregnancy, but it’s important to check the small print.

Pregnancy does not come under the list of ‘medical conditions’ you need to declare on your insurance application; however if you have other pregnancy-related health conditions, these may need to be flagged.

It’s also important to check the terms of your policy to see exactly what level of cover you’ll get. In particular:

  • Is there a restriction on how late in pregnancy you’ll be covered by the insurance? This may be up to 36 weeks or stop as early as 26 weeks.

  • What medical expenses are included? If you access any healthcare while you’re overseas, what treatment is covered and to what cost?

  • Will you be covered if you have to cancel the trip last minute, or return earlier than planned?

Get advice on finding the best travel insurance

5 tips for a safe and comfortable flight when pregnant

  • Move around: You’re at higher risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots during pregnancy, so be sure to walk around as much as possible on the plane (particularly on longer flights) and do leg exercises in your seat when you have to be buckled up.

  • Reserve your space: Request an aisle seat to make it easier to get up whenever you want to during the flight. If possible, choose a seat with extra legroom too.

  • Wear compression stockings: To further prevent blood clots as well as reduce fluid retention in your legs, wear properly-fitted compression stockings to help combat swelling.

  • Dress in loose clothing: Light, unrestrictive layers which you can add or take off will help to regulate your temperature and keep you comfortable throughout the journey.

  • Drink plenty of water: Keeping hydrated is particularly important when you’re pregnant and even more so when you’re flying. Ask staff for regular refills, or stock up on bottled water at the airport (after you’ve been through security).

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