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Flying when pregnant

What you should check before booking a flight and answers to common queries about air travel during pregnancy.

Most women can travel safely while pregnant. Flying does not increase your risk of early labour or miscarriage.

Flying may not be recommended if you:

  • have a condition affecting your blood cells like anaemia and sickle cell disease
  • have any condition affecting your heart or lungs that makes it hard for your to breathe
  • are at risk of premature labour, for example you previously had a premature birth
  • recently had a vaginal bleed

Before you book

Things you should check before arranging flights:

When it is safe to fly

The safest times during pregnancy to fly are before 37 weeks, if pregnant with one baby. If you are pregnant with twins the safest time is before 32 weeks.

It is a good idea to speak to your GP, obstetrician or midwife before you take a flight.

Airline rules

After 28 weeks, the airline may ask for a letter from your doctor or midwife confirming your due date. This is to make sure you aren't at risk of complications.

Many airlines do not allow women to fly after 37 weeks, so make sure you check with your airline before booking.

Medical facilities

Before you book, find out if there is a maternity hospital close to your destination. You should also know if there are facilities for premature babies in the event of premature labour.

Cost of medical care overseas

Check that your travel insurance covers you while pregnant if you need to be admitted to hospital abroad and other associated costs. You may have to stay in hospital for several weeks, for example if you develop ruptured membranes or threatened pre-term labour. You may also be unable to fly for a period of time after discharge from hospital.

If you’re travelling to Europe, make sure to get a European Health Insurance Card. It is free and allows you to get free access to public health services in other EU countries. It also includes European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland. It entitles you to necessary healthcare if you become ill or injured while on a temporary stay. It does not cover private treatment.

Travel vaccines

Talk to your GP or obstetrician if you are travelling to a place which requires vaccinations. Make sure you get the correct vaccinations needed for risk areas.

What to pack

Make sure you bring:

  • any medications in your hand luggage, including folic acid
  • a letter from your doctor and medical notes, if you carry them

Common concerns while flying

Concerns you may have include:

Worsened pregnancy symptoms

Pregnancy symptoms may get worse when you fly. These include a blocked nose or ears, swollen legs and morning sickness.

Airport security

You will have to go through all of the usual security checks at the airport. Walking through the security scanner is not harmful for you or your baby.

Seat-belt

You must wear a seat-belt when flying. Ask the cabin crew for help with this if needed.

Radiation

Anyone who flies is exposed to a slight increase in radiation. Occasional flights do not put you or your baby at risk.

Speak to your manager or occupational health department if you:

  • are a member of a flight crew (like a pilot or flight attendant)
  • fly regularly as part of your job

Deep vein thrombosis

Your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is increased when pregnant.

DVT is a blood clot that can form in your leg and can be very dangerous.

This is more likely to happen in flights over 4 hours.

To reduce your risk and help your circulation:

  • wear loose clothing and comfy shoes
  • take regular walks and do in-seat exercises
  • drink plenty of water
  • wear graduated elastic compression stockings. Your midwife, GP or pharmacist will need to measure you

If you have other risk factors, an injection of heparin (blood thinners) may be recommended.

Going into labour on the plane

Going into labour or having your waters break on a plane can be a frightening experience.

There may be doctors or midwives among the passengers who could help you birth your baby safely. Cabin crew may have had some training in this. However this is not guaranteed.

The pilot may have to divert the plane to the nearest airport to get help for you.

Page last reviewed: 28/11/2018
Next review due: 28/11/2021