This blog post was updated on July 28, 2021.
Being an expectant parent can be pretty daunting. No matter if it’s your first child or not, each pregnancy is unique with its own challenges and questions. One common issue that a lot of pregnant parents have a lot of questions about is flying. Whether it’s because they’re visiting family before the baby’s birth, traveling for work, or taking a babymoon; moms-to-be are more likely to be on a plane these days than ever before. Unfortunately, there can be a lot of misconceptions and unknowns about flying while pregnant, which can make things stressful…and being pregnant is already stressful enough.
Here are some basics to know if you’re planning or thinking about flying while pregnant:
The Best Time to Fly While Pregnant Is During the Second Trimester
It’s an urban legend that there’s a universal law about when in a pregnancy you’re allowed to fly. There’s no rule saying you can’t fly during your first trimester, it’s just not the best idea since that’s when most moms are likely to have morning sickness, exhaustion, and even serious complications — none of which you want to experience on a plane. Meanwhile, most airlines discourage passengers from flying after the 36-week mark in their pregnancy (about 4 weeks before the birth), which makes sense since they (and you) don’t want to risk you going into labor mid-flight. But even though you can travel during most of your third trimester, it’s not going be pleasant since that’s when pregnant moms are at their biggest and experience a host of new pains and possible complications. So if you’re going to fly while pregnant, do it sometime between week 13 to week 26.
Flying Internationally May Be a No-Go While Pregnant
International flights pose a different risk than domestic flights for pregnant travelers. They’re usually for much longer, at higher altitudes, and can involve exposure to more germs and viruses. So depending on the expectant mom’s age, medical history, and health of the pregnancy — your doctor may tell you to pass up any trips abroad before the baby comes.
It’s Probably a Good Idea to Reserve an Aisle Seat for Your Flight
Don’t let a love of the view from a window seat ruin your flight. Flying while pregnant will mean you’ll need to get up from your seat quite a bit. You’ll need to use the bathroom frequently and move around as much possible. So picking an aisle seat ahead of time will make that a whole lot easier.
You’ll Need to Go to Your Doctor Before You Can Take Off
No matter where you’re going or what trimester you’re in, if you’re planning on flying while pregnant you need to consult with your obstetrician beforehand. First, to make sure that you’ll be okay to travel for when you’re planning your trip and to go over the details, like destination and expected flight time, for the all-clear. Then, as you get closer to take-off, you’ll need to visit again for one last examination and documentation about your due date, any medical issues that other doctors should be aware of in case of an emergency, and certifying that you’re safe to fly. Different airlines have different requirements for medical documentation depending on if you’re in the third trimester. Some even require that the certification be within 48 hours of travel, so check with your carrier to find out what you need.
Pregnant Passengers Should Be Able to Board Early
After you’ve checked in, but before boarding has started, be sure to let the gate agent know you’re pregnant. Not all airlines automatically give boarding preference to passengers who are expecting, but most do and the attendants may even make an exception for you. Being allowed to board before everyone else may not sound like much, but not having to stand while you shuffle through the whole boarding process or fight to fit your bag into a stuffed overhead bin can seriously reduce the stress of the flying-while-pregnant experience.
Once You’re Onboard and in the Air, You Need to Stay Hydrated and Maintain Your Circulation
The two big things to do when you’re on a flight while pregnant are to keep drinking water and to keep your blood moving. Dehydration while traveling is common and can create a serious complication for any pregnancy. So remember to bring an empty water bottle to the airport and fill it up before you board. Also, don’t be shy about asking the flight attendants for extra H2O (they should especially be willing to help you out if you’ve already told them you’re pregnant).
The biggest health risk for anyone flying while pregnant, not including going into labor mid-flight, is developing deep vein thrombosis. It’s a dangerous type of blood clot that usually starts in the legs, typically due to sitting for long periods of time, and increases in probability with pregnancy. The two best ways to prevent it are by wearing compression socks (hosiery made with strong elastic that create lots of pressure on the legs to increase circulation) and moving around frequently — the standard advice is to get up and walk around for 5 minutes of every hour when flying and to use foot and leg movement exercises (foot circles, heel and toe lifts, knee lifts, and knee curls) if you’re unable to leave your seat because of turbulence.
Have any advice or recommendations based on your own experiences of flying while pregnant? Leave them in the comments section below!