When can I fly if I'm pregnant?
With a straightforward pregnancy before the end of the third trimester, it's perfectly safe for you and your baby to fly but there are a number of things you'll need to consider.
Best time to fly
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says the safest time to fly when you're pregnant is before 37 weeks, or before 32 weeks for those with a straightforward twin pregnancy.
Individual airlines have their own rules about when expectant mothers are allowed to fly. Most airlines have a 37 week cut off. It may also be more difficult to get travel insurance after this time.
After 28 weeks, airlines may require women to carry a letter from their midwife or doctor stating when their baby is due and confirming they are in good health and having a straightforward pregnancy without an increased risk of complications.
After 37 weeks, a woman stands a much higher chance of going into labour. In fact the chance of going into labour is higher the further along you are in your pregnancy.
You are also more likely to have a miscarriage in the first 3 months of pregnancy.
So, the second trimester, in mid-pregnancy, may be the best time to fly, after fatigue and morning sickness, and before you become so big flying becomes uncomfortable.
When not to fly
There are circumstances when it's best to avoid flying altogether. These include women who have:
- An increased risk of going into labour before their due date
- Severe anaemia
- Sickle cell disease
- Recently had significant vaginal bleeding
- A serious condition affecting their lungs or heart
Women may worry about the safety of air travel, but according to RCOG, in a straightforward pregnancy there is no evidence that flying will cause miscarriage, early labour, or the woman's waters to break.
There is also no evidence that the changes in air pressure or the decrease in humidity have a harmful effect on mother or baby.
Anyone who flies is exposed to a slight increase in radiation, but occasional flights are not considered a risk. Passing through airport security scanners is also not thought to pose any risks.
What to expect
There are some things to expect when flying:
- Swelling of the legs due to fluid retention (oedema).
- Nasal congestion and ear problems. During pregnancy, a blocked nose is more likely and, combined with this, the changes in air pressure in the plane can also cause ear problems.
- Pregnancy sickness. If you experience motion sickness during the flight, it can make sickness worse.