Traveling can be a stress-inducing time—with so much to do, so much to pack, itineraries to keep track of…the list goes on. Add to that the uncertainty and roller coaster of emotions that comes along with being pregnant as well, and you may be poised to overload if you don’t take the proper amount of time to prepare.
It’s just a simple fact of life that when you’re pregnant, some things that were once easy start to become more and more difficult over time, or, even worse, can prove to be dangerous to the health of a pregnant person and their child.
Fortunately, when it comes to flying, there’s one less thing you have to worry about! As far as it’s known today, for women with normal (i.e. complication-free) pregnancies, it’s perfectly safe to fly! In fact, most airlines will allow pregnant people to fly right up until their 36th week of pregnancy.
However, not every flight is designed the same, and you absolutely want to make sure you do your research! Before booking your next airplane ticket to check their restrictions, it’s smart to check their travel restrictions so you know beforehand what their policies are. You’ll also probably want to consult with your doctor before traveling if you want to be extra safe—especially if you already know you’re at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy.
In this article, we’ll talk a bit more about flying while pregnant, when it’s safe and, ultimately, when it’s not!
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In general, for most women, it’s pretty safe to fly at just about any stage of pregnancy! The only real cutoff point for most airlines is about your 36th week—and considering that an average full-term pregnancy lasts ~40 weeks, that means you’re cleared to fly pretty much until the last few weeks of your pregnancy.
The only times it would be recommended that you don’t fly would be if you already know that your pregnancy comes with extra risk complications, such as:
- Prelabor rupture of membranes (PROM), or
- Preterm labor
Another thing to be aware of is the threat of deep vein thrombosis, which is a condition in which a blood clot forms in the veins, usually in the leg, which can then lead to a dangerous condition called a pulmonary embolism, where the clot then travels to your lungs.
Research has shown that any type of travel lasting for more than 4 hours—regardless of travel method, be it plane, car, or boat—doubles the risk of DVT, and being pregnant puts you at even more of a risk.
To lessen your risk of developing DVT while traveling, you can try the following:
- Staying hydrated by drinking lots of fluids that don’t contain caffeine
- Wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing
- Walking and stretching at regular intervals
- Wearing special compression stockings that hug the legs—though you may want to speak with your doctor before trying these, as they’re not safe for everyone and can cause complications themselves if not worn properly
With all of the big stuff out of the way, we can use the following sections of this article to talk about traveling during each trimester of your pregnancy and the pros and cons of each of them to help you decide when the best time would be for you to plan your next trip!
The First Trimester
While there are definitely some myths out there regarding early pregnancy and traveling, the risks that people often associate with noise vibration, cosmic radiation, and cabin pressure actually create no heightened risks for a pregnant traveler.
In fact, the first trimester is an especially low-risk time, and most women only need to take the same general precautions as the rest of the public when traveling this early on in their pregnancies. The only thing you may want to keep in mind is that morning sickness and fatigue are often at their height at about 7 to 8 weeks of gestation, so you may want to bring along some anti-nausea medication just to be safe!
The Second Trimester
For many, the second trimester (or about 14-28 weeks) of your pregnancy is the most opportune time to book your traveling plans if it’s within your power to do so.
This is because as you start to transition out of your first trimester and into the second, your energy levels start to return to normal, morning sickness has generally subsided, and you’re still able to get around pretty easily if you need to. Things start to change after week 28 though, and you may find it’s more difficult to get around than it was before and making it more uncomfortable to sit for extended periods of time.
The Third Trimester
As previously stated, if you’re generally in good health and carrying on through a normal pregnancy—meaning you’re not at risk of complications such as preterm labor, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes—you’re cleared to fly on most airlines until your 36th week!
Most doctors may want you closer to home as you’re nearing the final stretch of your pregnancy though, as to be able to better monitor you as your due date gets closer.
At the end of the day, when it comes to flying while pregnant, it’s generally deemed pretty safe for just about all pregnant women until the end of their third trimester.
The only time flying while you’re pregnant is not recommended is if you know you have or are already prone to developing certain health risks associated with complications during pregnancy—such as hypertension, sickle-cell disease, history of premature labor, or placental abnormalities such as placenta previa.
In order to make the wisest decision possible, regardless of where you are in your pregnancy, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before you fly so they can go over your health history with you to make sure there are no extra precautions you should be taking.
Otherwise, just make sure you take the same precautions anyone else would when preparing for a trip! Meaning make sure that checked bag isn’t an ounce over 50 pounds and you don’t have any liquids in your carry-on bag.
Wishing you safe travels!