pregnant lady on plane

If you’re feeling unsure about whether you can hop on that plane when you’re expecting, here’s the info.

Can I fly at one, two or three months pregnant (first trimester)?

Yes, there is no evidence that flying causes miscarriage (RCOG, 2015). Yet as this is the riskiest time for miscarriage, just be aware that no medical help will be available if that does happen. You also might feel nauseous and exhausted, so that’s something to think about too.

Can I fly at four, five or six months pregnant (second trimester)?

Good news if you’re thinking of going away in the second trimester: it’s considered the safest time to fly (Hezelgrave et al, 2011). That’s mainly because the risk of pregnancy-related complications, including miscarriage, is lower during the second trimester than in the first and third (Hezelgrave et al, 2011).

Can I fly at seven, eight or nine months pregnant (third trimester)?

It’s fine to fly in the third trimester but you’re advised to do it before 37 weeks, or before 32 weeks in an uncomplicated twin pregnancy. That’s because you could go into labour any time after those dates (RCOG, 2015).

Do still check with your specific airline before you fly though. Many airlines have restrictions on travel in advanced pregnancy (Hezelgrave et al, 2011).

Flying when pregnant: the worries and concerns

First of all, you should know that flying is not considered harmful to you or your baby if you’re having a straightforward pregnancy.

You might feel a bit uncomfortable flying at certain stages of pregnancy. For example, you might have swollen legs, pregnancy sickness, nasal congestion (more common during pregnancy) or ear problems during pressure changes due to this congestion (RCOG, 2015).

A change in air pressure or a decrease in humidity won’t cause your baby any harm. There is also no evidence to suggest that flying causes miscarriages, early labour or waters to break (RCOG, 2015). If you have any health issues or pregnancy complications, discuss it with your GP or midwife before you decide to fly. They might advise you not to fly if you have:

  • severe anaemia
  • sickle cell disease
  • significant vaginal bleeding
  • a serious heart or lung condition that makes it difficult to breathe
  • increased risk of going into labour before the due date
  • increased chance of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (request an ultrasound before flying)
  • previous history of ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and documented tubal pathology.

(Hezelgrave et al, 2011; RCOG, 2015)

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when pregnant and flying

A DVT is a blood clot that develops in a deep vein in your leg or pelvis. It’s dangerous if a DVT travels to your lungs and causes a pulmonary embolism.

The risk of DVT increases when you’re flying and with longer flights because you are sitting down for a long time. You’re also at a higher risk of developing a DVT when you are pregnant and for up to six weeks after you give birth (RCOG, 2015). Risk factors like a previous history of DVT and a high BMI can further increase your chance of developing a DVT.

Your doctor or midwife will be able to check your risk of developing DVT and advise you about flying.

How to reduce your risk of DVT

You can reduce your risk of DVT by:

  • wearing loose clothing and comfy shoes
  • getting an aisle seat and going for regular walks around the plane
  • doing in-seat exercises every 30 minutes (ask your GP about how to do these)
  • drinking plenty of water
  • avoiding drinks containing alcohol and caffeine
  • wearing graduated elastic compression stockings to help reduce leg swelling.

(RCOG, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016)

Flying when pregnant: general tips

  1. Take your hand-held pregnancy notes.
  2. Carry any medication in your hand luggage.
  3. Carry any documents confirming your due date and (if needed) that you are fit to travel. If you are 28 weeks pregnant or more, the airline you are travelling with might ask for a letter from your midwife or doctor stating your due date, that you’re in good health, have no complications and have a straightforward pregnancy.
  4. Carry your travel insurance documents with you too or make sure you have access to them if they’re on email.
  5. Carry your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you if you are travelling to Europe. You can apply online for one for free.
  6. Seatbelt wise, it’s recommended that you strap your seatbelt reasonably tightly across the top of your thighs and then under your bump. If you need a seatbelt extension, ask cabin crew.

(RCOG, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016)

Travel vaccinations when pregnant – are they safe?

There’s no evidence of risk from vaccinations that contain inactivated virus, bacterial vaccines or toxoids when you’re pregnant (CDC, 2017). However, avoid live vaccines like yellow fever because of the risk of contracting a disease that might harm your developing baby (Hezelgrave et al, 2011).

If you need advice on specific travel vaccinations, contact your doctor or midwife. Some anti-malarial tablets are not safe to be taken during pregnancy, so consult your GP or midwife about those too (NHS Choices, 2016).

This page was last reviewed in May 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 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.

CDC. (2017) Guidelines for vaccinating pregnant women. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pregnancy/hcp/guidelines.html [Accessed 11th May 2018]

Hezelgrave NL, Shennan AH, Chappell LC. (2011) Advising on travel during pregnancy. BMJ.342. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d2506.long [Accessed 11th May 2018]

NHS Choices. (2016) Travelling in pregnancy. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/travel-pregnant/#car-travel-in-pregnancy [Accessed 11th May 2018]

RCOG. (2015) Air travel and pregnancy. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/air-travel-pregnancy.pdf [Accessed 11th May 2018]

Rodger MA, Walker M, Wells PS. (2003) Diagnosis and treatment of venous thromboembolism in pregnancy. Best Pract Res Clin Haematol. 16:279-296. Available from:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12763492 [Accessed 11th May 2018]

 

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