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Flying when pregnant can be a daunting prospect. Taking care of your unborn child and yourself are of the utmost importance, which makes many mums-to-be question whether it is in fact safe to travel when pregnant.
Well, I can assure you that taking a much needed holiday is not only safe while pregnant, but it is actually good for you!
Now that I have had two full-term pregnancies, throughout both of which I travelled as much as I could, I feel suitably qualified to share with you my top tips for flying when pregnant!
My Top tips for flying when pregnant
I have experienced short haul flights while pregnant and long haul flights while pregnant.
I have experienced flying in the first trimester, flying in the second trimester and flying in the third trimester.
Each pregnancy is different and things can change at any time. One day you might be full of energy, the next you may feel sick. One day you might feel happy, the next sad. One day you might have aches and pains and the next day they may be gone.
The key to flying while pregnant is to be flexible. Understand that plans may need to change and that you might find some things more challenging than you did before you were pregnant. Have an open mind and that will put you in a strong position to enjoy your travels while pregnant!
I could talk about my tips for flying when pregnant all day long, but because I know that nobody has the patience for that(!), I have consolidated my advice into 5 tips for travelling while pregnant.
#1- Get a fit to fly letter
Each airline will have their own flight restrictions and airline rules for flying when pregnant and it is important that you check what these are in advance!
Generally, airlines require you to have a ‘fit to fly’ letter and one of the most important tips for flying when pregnant is to make sure that you have the appropriate paperwork in advance of your flight.
A fit to fly letter is basically just a sheet of paper that details how many weeks pregnant you are and that you are indeed ‘fit to fly’. You can obtain this from your midwife or doctor and I advise that you keep this somewhere safe and easily accessible.
You might also be interested in my post- ‘Travel-Themed Pregnancy Announcement Ideas‘
Most airlines require pregnant women to have a fit to fly letter from between 28-30 weeks of pregnancy. There are several points where your letter might be checked: at the check-in desk, when boarding the aircraft and again when onboard the aircraft.
It is for this reason that I recommend that you keep the letter somewhere handy, such as in your passport. I have a handy passport holder with a little compartment for paperwork such as this, you can find a range of designs on Amazon.
It is important that you check the paperwork once it has been completed by your doctor or midwife.
When I travelled to Abu Dhabi during my first pregnancy my midwife wrote the date that she signed the letter in the box where my expected date of delivery should have been written. I didn’t realise this until I was asked to present the letter Turkish Airlines staff at their check-in desk.
They allowed me to travel anyway (luckily!), but they would have been within their rights to refuse me boarding. For the next three legs of my journey I was forced to hold my jacket over my tummy in attempt to hide my baby bump so that I did not encounter any further problems! For this reason I recommend that you check that the paperwork is completed properly.
Personally, I always wonder how airline staff would know if or how many weeks pregnant you are and how they can actually enforce this rule!
When I travelled to South Africa in my second pregnancy I took a fit to fly letter, but was never asked to show it. I did not lie at any point, but I decided to wear clothes that did not make me look visibly pregnant to avoid any issues like I had had on my trip to Abu Dhabi a couple of years earlier.
People will not usually ask for pregnancy evidence unless they are confident that you are pregnant for fear of offending you!
A last point on airline rules and regulations for flying when pregnant is to check until which week of pregnancy the airline will allow you to fly. This differs between airlines, but is usually around 36 weeks. This is earlier if you are pregnant with twins.
Personally, I wouldn’t choose to fly this late in my pregnancy, as I know how uncomfortable you can feel. I also want to be close to home in case of early delivery in those late weeks of pregnancy.
However, if you do choose to travel towards the end of the third trimester then make sure that the airline will allow this.
You might also be interested in my post- ‘Top Travel-Themed Baby Names‘
#2 Purchase flight socks
As I pointed out at the beginning of this post, your number 1 priority when flying is to ensure that you are your baby stay safe and healthy.
If you choose to fly when pregnant you are at an increased risk of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
DVT is a dangerous condition where a blood clot forms in the body. This most commonly happens in the leg. You are at increased risk of DVT when flying because of the reduced air pressure and the lack of mobility onboard an aircraft. This is especially a risk factor if taking long haul flights when pregnant.
To reduce the risk of DVT it is recommend that women who fly when pregnant move around regularly. You should wiggle your legs, feet and toes when sitting and get up and walk around as frequently as possible.
You can also purchase flight socks. Flight socks are basically compression socks, which help to maintain good blood circulation in your legs. Personally, I have never used these for short haul flights while pregnant, but I thought it was important to purchase some for my long-haul flight to South Africa, which was over 12 hours. You can find the flight socks that I bought here.
For more information on DVT, I recommend that you visit the NHS website.
#3 Move around regularly
As I mentioned before, it is important that you move around the aircraft regularly, particularly if you are undertaking a long haul flight while pregnant.
You can take a gentle stroll up and down the aisle or simply walk on the spot in the galley area or by your seat. If you are on a large aircraft with two floors then you can walk up and down the stairs.
For those of you who are travelling with children, as I did on our trip to South Africa, this is probably a given anyway!
#4 Stay hydrated
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that we drink between 1.5 and two litres of water each day. When you are pregnant this should increase by an additional two to four glasses a day, particularly if the weather is warm or if you are exercising.
Drinking water is very important when pregnant and dehydration can cause serious complications such as preterm delivery– which I’m sure is something that you will want to avoid at 30,000ft!!
SO it is super important that you stay hydrated if you are flying when pregnant!
You might also be interested in my post- ‘Why Do I Get More Mosquito Bites When Pregnant?‘
One of my top tips for flying when pregnant is to always know where your next drink will be coming from. Whilst many airlines will provide complementary water during the flight, in my experience this is only a small glass or two, which was never enough for me when I was pregnant!
During pregnancy I would drink a lot. Not because the medics told me to, but because my body did! I would get so thirsty that I was always thinking about where my next glass of water would come from. This is even more important when flying as the altitude and dry air and cause you to be dehydrated more than you might usually be.
If you are flying while pregnant I recommend that you always carry a bottle of water with you. You can buy this in the airport or take a lightweight reusable bottle to refill when appropriate.
Remember that you cannot take drinks of water through security.
I also suggest that you take advantage of the complementary water during the flight. I have been known to ask for multiple cups or for the entire bottle when the Cabin Crew have undertaken their drinks service. I also get up regularly and head over to the galley area to ask for more drinks. Don’t be shy or feel that you are asking for too much- your health and your baby’s wellbeing are what matters most!
#5 Elevate your legs
Elevating your legs when pregnant can further reduce the risk of developing DVT.
It can also help you to feel a bit more comfortable, particularly when taking long haul flights when pregnant!
There are a range of gadgets on the market that can help you to do this and I would say that this is a worthwhile investment, particularly if you are taking a night flight while pregnant or it is a very long flight.
When I travelled to South Africa I bought this inflatable cube, which did the trick really well. Whilst there wasn’t enough room for me to stretch my legs out completely, I was able to get in a position that was more comfortable than sitting upright.
I have also seen a number of these hammock-type contraptions for sale, like this one from Amazon. Whilst I haven’t tried these out myself, the reviews are good, so this might also be worth a try for anybody who is flying while pregnant.
You might also be interested in my post- ‘Where Can’t I Travel When Pregnant?‘
Tips for flying when pregnant
So, these are my five top tips for flying when pregnant! Whether you are travelling in the first, second or third trimester, you need to make sure that you are both comfortable and safe during your flight and hopefully these top tips will help you to do just that.
Do you have any other tips for flying when pregnant? I’d love to hear them! Drop them in the comments below!