Pregnant woman
 

 

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Flying when pregnant

Flying when pregnant during your first and second trimester is generally considered to be safe, read about rules and guidelines here.

There is no evidence to suggest that flying while pregnant is harmful for either you or your baby if you are having a straightforward pregnancy, however there are some safety guidelines on air travel during pregnancy that you should be aware of. Discussing flying with your midwife or GP beforehand is advisable, especially if you have experienced any of the following:

  • Spotting (light bleeding)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Excessive morning sickness
  • A previous miscarriage
  • A previous early birth.

Many women prefer to avoid flying while pregnant during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy because of the nausea and exhaustion they might already be experiencing. Also, miscarriage is more likely during the first trimester, whether you are travelling or not, and once airborne, help will be limited if anything does happen.

In addition, new patient information published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) on 6 February 2015 says the safest time to fly during pregnancy is before 37 weeks (as after this a woman could go into labour at any time) and before 32 weeks if you are carrying twins in a straightforward pregnancy. However, many airlines don't allow women to fly earlier than this so it is important to check with the airline you are traveling with (see below).

Airport security

Metal detectors are still commonly used to check passengers. These work by using a low frequency electromagnetic field which is able to detect anything unsuitable or illegal on flights. They are therefore safe for pregnant women to walk through.

Recent years have seen the emergence of the ‘full body scanner’. Although this does make use of radiation, the dose emitted is so low it is considered negligible.

Vaccinations in pregnancy

If you're travelling somewhere that requires you to have a vaccination, seek travel health advice from a suitably qualified healthcare professional who can perform a risk assessment to determine the risk of medical intervention versus the benefit of vaccinations/and or malaria medication. See links below for further information about vaccinations in pregnancy.  

Flying safely during pregnancy

Here are some suggestions to help with your flight:

  • When booking your airline tickets, be sure to inform your booking agent how far pregnant you will be on your return.
  • Most airlines will require a certificate or letter from your GP if you plan to travel 28 weeks and onwards in your pregnancy. The letter must state your due date and confirm that there are no known complications in your pregnancy and that you are fit to fly.
  • Book an aisle seat so that you can move without disturbing passengers either side of you if you need to use the toilet or move around.
  • Pregnant women are more susceptible to dehydration so be sure to drink lots of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol as these drinks are dehydrating. Also, bring your own bottle of water, which you can purchase in the departure lounge before boarding.
  • Be sure to pack a supply of vitamin-rich fresh fruits such as grapes, plums, oranges or dried apricots to snack on throughout the flight.
  • Wear loose clothing for comfort and shoes with adjustable straps in case your feet swell.
  • Do calf and ankle exercises – most airlines will provide you with information on how to do these.
  • Once on the plane, adjust the seatbelt so that it is underneath your bump. After which, adhere to the same health and safety guidelines as everyone else.
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Deep vein thrombosis

There is a slightly higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when flying while pregnant. To help combat this, drink lots of water, try to move regularly and wear compression stockings (flight socks), which can help to regulate your blood circulation. Put them on before you fly and try not to remove them until you go to bed after the flight.

General pregnancy holiday tips

  • Wherever, you go, be sure to ask about available health facilities.
  • Check that your travel insurance policy will cover you for any eventuality, including early birth and medical care, should you go into labour whilst away.
  • Be sure to pack a high factor sun cream as your skin will be more sensitive during pregnancy.
  • Be liberal with insect repellent, while there is no evidence that this can affect your baby, please read the advice given by the Health Protection Agency  below.
  • If travelling in Europe be sure to pack your EHIC card, which ensures you are eligible for free or reduced cost emergency medical care.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Read new patient information on air travel and pregnancy published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) on 6 February 2015.

NHS Choices has further information on travelling in pregnancy and the EHIC card.

The British department of transport has information on the risks of a full body security scanner.

The Health Protection Agency has useful information for pregnant women.

You may find the following links to evidence-based sources of specialist advice on vaccinations in pregnancy helpful: Health Protection Scotland and The National Travel Health Network and Centre