Flying while pregnant

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If you’re looking to book a vacation to relax during your pregnancy, you’re in luck: air travel is generally considered safe for pregnant women. As long as there are no complications with the pregnancy and the expecting woman is not flying too close to her due date, flying should present few issues. However, travelling while pregnant does come with a few warnings, such as an increased risk of blood clots and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – especially during long flights. To ensure safe and comfortable air travel for both the baby and mommy-to-be, follow these tips from the Cheapflights team.

    • Travel with at least one companion who has your emergency contact info in addition to your doctor’s number programmed into their phone.
    • Carry documentation with your expected date of delivery, doctor’s contact information and your blood type.
    • Stay hydrated. Dehydration on airplanes can be worse when you’re pregnant, so drink plenty of caffeine-free, non-alcoholic fluids before, during and after the flight.
    • Wear your seatbelt continuously to minimize risk of injury from unpredictable turbulence.
    • Pack vitamin-rich fresh fruit to snack on during your flight. Grapes, plums, oranges and dried apricots are travel-friendly choices for pregnant women.
    • Wear support hose and shoes with adjustable straps in case your feet swell.
    • As always with flying, get up and walk around the cabin every two hours or so.
    • Request an aisle seat to make it easier to get up for walks or bathroom trips.
    • Bring an eye mask and ear plugs and wear loose, comfortable clothing.
    • Rest as much as possible while in the air.

When is the best time to fly?

Mliu92, tehVet & friend via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Image: Mliu92, theVet & friend via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

According to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, air travel is safest for pregnant women before your 20th week of pregnancy. If you are considering a flight during your pregnancy, check with both your doctor and the airline before you book.

General consensus in the medical community suggests it is best not to travel pregnant before 12 weeks due to morning sickness and the potentially increased risk of miscarriage. Though many pregnant women have no trouble flying in their first trimester, it is always better to stay on the safe side and consult with your physician.

After 28 weeks, when the risk of going into labor increases, most airlines will require a letter from your doctor stating that you are fit for air travel while pregnant and confirming your estimated due date. If you are more than 36 weeks pregnant, many airlines will not let you fly due to the increased risk of delivering onboard.

A frequent concern among pregnant flyers is the exposure to naturally occurring cosmic radiation during a flight. However, the risks to both the passenger and her fetus are considered negligible, as the radiation exposure of the longest flight is around 15 per cent of the recommended exposure limit of one millisievert per year. Health Canada suggests that “pregnant women who expect to fly more than 200 hours over the course of their pregnancy should seek further information from the Radiation Protection Bureau on the radiation risks for unborn children.”

It’s also recommended that you maintain up-to-date immunizations, in case the need to travel coincides with pregnancy. For travel to destinations requiring vaccinations, it’s advised that you consult your physician.

Each airline has its own rules for flying while pregnant

If you’re booking your flights with an agent, let them know that you’re pregnant when you book your flight and check that you are permitted to fly. If booking your flights online, be sure to check the airline’s website. It is worth calling ahead to alert the airline about your pregnancy, too: not only can you confirm that you’ll be able to fly, but you can also ensure that you get special service to keep you comfortable during your travels. It’s also recommended that you avoid smaller planes that fly below 7,000 feet, and choose larger planes with pressurized cabins.


Pregnant Travel Policy

American Airlines Travel is not permitted for seven days before or after the delivery date on domestic flights under five hours, and international flights or flights over the water travel is not allowed within 30 days of the due date, unless special approval from the airline has been given.
Air Canada Travel is permitted up to and including the 35th week pending no previous history of premature labour.
Air France Medical clearance is not required, but is advised for all pregnant flyers.
British Airways Medical certification confirming delivery date and no complications is required for travellers who are beyond 28 weeks pregnant, while travel is allowed up to the 36th week for single pregnancies, and 32 weeks for twins.
Delta Air Lines There are no restrictions on flying, and no medical certifications are required.
Emirates A medical certificate attesting to a healthy pregnancy is required for those who are beyond their 29th week of pregnancy. Air travel is not permitted after the 36th week for single pregnancies and after the 32nd week for twins.
Lufthansa No medical certificate is required until the 36th week of pregnancy.
Porter Pregnant passengers between weeks 36 and 38 are allowed to fly with a doctor’s note; flying is not permitted after 38 weeks.
Qantas For flights longer than four hours pregnant flyers are allowed up until the 36th week for single pregnancies and 32 weeks for twins. Flights under four hours pregnant flyers are allowed up until the 40th week. Medical clearance is required for all non-routine pregnancies and after 28 weeks you must bring a certificate from your doctor.
United Airlines A certificate must be obtained between 24 and 72 hours before the flight for passengers in their ninth month of pregnancy or later.
WestJet Past 36 weeks, pregnant flyers should obtain a written confirmation from a physician.

Make yourself comfortable

Especially during pregnancy, reserving the right seat on an airplane can make a difference. You will need to be able to get up and move around the plane.

Try to reserve a spacious seat when you make your booking. Many airlines’ websites have information about the varying legroom on each of their seats. If you plan to travel pregnant, it’s worth spending a few extra bucks to get a bit more room. Be aware, though, that traditional “extra legroom” seats, such as those on the exit aisles, are often not permitted to those who are pregnant.

If you can’t reserve ahead, arrive at the airport early and ask for a bulkhead seat. The bulkhead is the partition between business class and economy, for example.

It’s also useful to reserve an aisle seat if you can, especially if you’re travelling long-distance, which will save you from having to squeeze past other passengers every time you want to get out of your seat.

Don’t be shy. Explain that you’re pregnant and ask if there is any possibility of being upgraded or having a seat with a couple of open seats next to you.

Flight insurance considerations

Pregnant women can be seen as relatively high-risk and many insurers will not provide air travel coverage if you have less than eight weeks to go before your due date. You could still claim losses unrelated to your pregnancy, but you might not be covered if you have to cancel your trip due to your pregnancy. To ensure peace of mind on flights while pregnant, look into air travel insurance.

Tips for your vacation

Image: Thomas Pompernigg, Schwanger in der Therme via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Image: Thomas Pompernigg, Schwanger in der Therme via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Once the flight’s over, it’s time to enjoy the vacation. Here are just a few more things to consider:

    • Skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, so wear stronger sunscreen than usual.
    • Keep a list of names and numbers to be contacted in case of emergency.
    • Keep a list of local hospitals from the embassy or tourist board.
    • Ask your doctor before embarking on any “dangerous” sports, such as diving or water sports.
    • Bring your medical notes with you in case you need to go to a hospital or deliver early.
    • You’re on the ground. Relax and enjoy yourself on what could be your last diaper-free break for a while.

Featured Images: Jerry Lai, 31 weeks pregnant via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Flying while pregnant was last modified: July 16th, 2015 by Brittany Dietz
Author: Brittany Dietz (275 posts)

Brittany has travelled to London, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico, The Caribbean, Canada and all over the U.S. She's passionate about travel and has big plans for future trips! Brittany is a Content and Social Media Executive at Cheapflights.