If you are pregnant and someone who travels somewhat often, then one of the big questions you’ll be asking yourself is, can you fly while pregnant?
Flying when you’re healthy is usually deemed a safe activity as there are minimal risks involved. However, flying can cause some strain on the body particularly if you have any medical conditions that could be exacerbated by being in the air, such as high blood pressure.
Flying pregnant is generally considered safe in most circumstances. Research by Freeman et al in 2004 found that “air travel is not associated with increased risk of complications for pregnancies”. Further research by Irgens et al 2003 has also shown that the offspring of pilots and cabin attendants are not at a heightened increased risk of adverse pregnancy .
However, other research has shown that flying after 37 weeks can increase the risk of preterm birth and other health complications . There are other risks that can occur if other medical conditions are involved.
We’ll take a closer look at the research available to help you understand if it’s safe to fly while pregnant when is best to fly and any risks involved in flying when pregnant.
If you are experiencing nausea, read here on what helps nausea in pregnancy.
For information on constipation, read here on home remedies that help relief constipation.
Is it safe to be flying in the first trimester?
During the first trimester of pregnancy, it is generally safe to fly and travel. Research by Irgens et al 2003 on pilots and cabin crew confirms that flying does not induce pregnancy complications at this time . Pregnant women can board a plane in their first few weeks of pregnancy without any major concerns.
However, it is important to note that the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are when most complications and miscarriages can occur. Although these complications are not heightened by travel by air it can give you better peace of mind to avoid travel if you think you might be at risk of this.
Common concerns about cabin pressure, vibrations, and airport metal detectors do not have any adverse impact on the pregnancy according to findings from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. These are really myths that pregnant women do not need to worry about.
Although flying at this time is generally safe for pregnancy, individuals should consider if any pre-existing medical conditions could be worsened by flying, and therefore impact the pregnancy. Consulting your doctor to better understand your situation and health conditions is vital before boarding a plane.
The first trimester of pregnancy is usually when individuals feel the most nauseous and uncomfortable which may be heightened during air travel. If you experience extreme sickness then you may want to avoid traveling full stop at this time to avoid any additional discomfort.
Booking an aisle seat can help to alleviate sickness, particularly in the middle of the plane near the wing as here you’ll experience less turbulence. An aisle seat also ensures you can escape quickly and have space should you feel sick.
What is the best time to fly while pregnant?
The second trimester is widely considered the best time to travel and fly whilst pregnant. During this time, pregnancy is usually considered the most comfortable, making for a better travel experience.
Healthcare professionals also support that the second trimester is the lowest risk for miscarriage and other complications. Flying earlier in your pregnancy, especially for international travel is a safer option if you have the choice of when to travel.
Similar to traveling during the first trimester, if there are any existing medical conditions that could impact the health of the pregnancy then it is also advisable not to fly in the second trimester. These conditions include a history of blood clots, placental abnormalities, anemia, high blood pressure, and diabetes. There are many more conditions that must also be considered.
Although the second trimester is generally the best time for travel during pregnancy, all individuals should consult with their doctor to understand if it is safe in their particular condition.
How late in pregnancy can you fly?
General advice is that you are safe to fly up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Most airlines won’t allow pregnant individuals to fly any later than this, and in some cases will prevent flying earlier in the pregnancy than this for an international flight.
It’s best to check your specific airline guidelines and requirements if you are needing a flight close to the 36-week mark. Some airlines will also ask for doctors’ notes and due days, so consulting your doctor is also advisable.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists show that flying is safe up to 36 weeks as pregnant travelers can follow the same general precautions for travel as the general population. The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists further explains that if the pregnant individual is at risk of preterm labor, then they should not fly any later than 32 weeks.
If in doubt, consult your general practitioner. You are usually safe in the first two trimesters but your risks increase as time goes on and once you reach your third trimester.
What are the regulations for flying while pregnant?
Flight regulations for flying pregnant can vary between airlines so it’s important to check the specific providers’ regulations. These regulations can also vary between international and domestic flights.
Long-haul flights may ask pregnant individuals not to fly earlier than the 36-week mark as there are additional risks that occur with longer international travel. Some airlines may require a doctor’s note, or medical certifications to confirm that you are fit to fly and in good health.
In some cases you may also need vaccinations which is why consulting your doctor, midwife, or gynecologist is essential before you travel.
Does your insurance cover provide coverage when traveling during pregnancy?
Having travel and health insurance is just as important when you are pregnant, if not more so. If you already have travel insurance before you get pregnant, then you may not be covered for trip cancellations or any additional costs that might incur due to a pregnancy complication. For that reason, it’s important to look up your coverage and understand exactly what you are getting.
If this provider is not covering your pregnancy then you may need to reconsider and choose one that provides that additional support. Sometimes insurance providers will provide some support and reimbursement if you become pregnant and need to cancel your flight.
Looking for travel insurance close to your travel date when you are pregnant can be difficult as many providers will consider you a high-risk traveler, the closer you get to 36 weeks or even when you get to the 26-week mark. If you are planning travel while you are pregnant ensure your provider covers you for any unexpected costs or cancellations.
Can you fly pregnant with pre-existing medical conditions?
Some medical conditions may not increase the health risks of your pregnancy when flying. However, other conditions may increase your risk of miscarriage or complications that can be heightened during air travel. These risks can be worsened for long-haul flights and further along in the pregnancy.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition and want to fly when pregnant then you are best to consult your doctor to discuss your options.
What are the risks of flying while pregnant?
There are a few risks to flying pregnant when flying later in the pregnancy and on long-haul flights. During the first trimester, there is a risk of increased nausea and motion sickness but otherwise, the risks at this time are relatively low. A study has shown that there is an increased risk of blood clots for pregnant individuals when flying. This research showed that wearing compression stockings can reduce the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) .
It’s also important to consider where you are going and if this will have an impact on your health. Research has shown that pregnant women are at a higher risk of becoming severely infected with malaria than nonpregnant women . If you are traveling to an area with a risk of malaria, then you may want to reconsider.
Contracting a severe infection from malaria could have an adverse effect on your pregnancy including miscarriage, preterm birth, stillbirth, infection, and maternal death. It’s important to research the risks of malaria in the location you may be traveling to and consult your doctor as well as take preventative actions from being bitten.
Pregnant women may have more risks of flying if they have any pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart conditions or diabetes. For that reason, pregnant individuals should consult their healthcare provider to fully understand their individual risks.
What can be done to reduce the risks of flying when pregnant?
For any flights, particularly long-haul flights, pregnant passengers should wear compression socks and do plenty of walking down the airplane aisles every half hour to improve circulation and blood flow. ACOG Committee further suggests avoiding wearing constrictive clothing, wear comfortable shoes, hydrating by drinking plenty of water every half hour, and reducing caffeine and alcohol intake to reduce the risk of DVT and prevent blood clots .
Flying Pregnant is Considered Safe
Flying in your second trimester is one of the best ways to reduce the risks from flying as this is considered the safest time to fly. Avoiding taking long-distance travel during pregnancy can help reduce any travel-related risks. Opt for short domestic travel during pregnancy to minimize all risks.
Research has shown that it is generally safe to fly while pregnant until 36 weeks, as long as the individual is generally healthy with no pre-existing medical conditions. During the first trimester, there is an increased risk of miscarriage and complications but this is not heightened by flying. Air travel at this time may result in increased nausea and general sickness. Travel in the second trimester is highly regarded as the best time as the general pregnancy complication risks are at their lowest and it’s usually the most comfortable time in the pregnancy. As you approach the third trimester near the 26-week mark, you may not be able to board long-haul flights, and at the 36-week mark, you will not be able to travel on any flights. Medical conditions may make flying riskier to some pregnant women so it is advisable to seek out medical advice as to whether flying is safe for you or not.
 Freeman et al; Does air travel affect pregnancy outcome? Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics (2004)
 Irgens et al; Pregnancy Outcome Among Offspring of Airline Pilots and Cabin Attendants; Scand J Work Environ Health (2003)
 Chibber et al; Adverse Outcome of Pregnancy Following Air Travel; A Myth of a Concern? Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol (2006)
 ACOG Committee Opinion. Air Travel During Pregnancy. Int J Gynaecol Obstet (2002)
 Belcaro et al; Venous Thromboembolism from Air Travel; The LONFLIT Study. Angiology (2001)
 Ruth E Lagerberg; Malaria in Pregnancy: A Literature Review. J Midwifery Womens Health (2008)
 ACOG Committee Opinion No.746: Air Travel During Pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol (2018)