Many mamas-to-be might be put off by the idea of flying while pregnant, especially long-haul flights that can take several hours or longer.
But maybe you booked a holiday before falling pregnant, or perhaps your job involves a lot of air travel. Or (like I did) you’ve found yourself in a situation where you fell pregnant abroad and you’re travelling back home for the birth.
Whatever your reason for wanting to travel by plane, you may be wondering, whether it’s actually safe for you to fly such long distances while pregnant or whether it could cause harm to you are your baby.
But according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynocologists (ACOG), it can be perfectly safe to fly during your pregnancy, and even well into your third trimester.
However, there are some things to consider when flying abroad when pregnant that will help your journey be more comfortable and hassle-free.
Check out my little guide to flying long haul below…
Check the airline’s flying when pregnant policy
The first thing you should do before booking a flight is to check the airline’s policy, as some may differ in their requirements. Most will allow travel up to 36 weeks, but for some, the cutoff is 34 weeks. If you are pregnant with multiples, then they may not let you fly after 20 to 24 weeks.
If you’re planning to fly over 28 weeks pregnant, generally most airlines will require a letter from your midwife or doctor to say that your pregnancy is low-risk and healthy. This is simply so that they can be reassured there’s little risk of you going into early labour or your waters breaking early during the flight.
Depending on what stage you are at in your pregnancy, some airlines may also wish for you to see their own medical advisor as well. This is just an extra precaution and can be easily arranged with one of their local booking agents prior to your flight. Do check with the airline to see whether you will need to do this and bring your signed forms with you to avoid any delay at the airport.
Another thing worth noting is to check the length of your gestation still meets the airline’s requirements when flying overnight. I found out the hard way when travelling back to the UK from Tanzania and almost didn’t get allowed on my connecting flight because I was technically classed as 32 weeks pregnant at that stage of the journey and hadn’t seen one of their own medical practitioners.
Don’t forget your paperwork
As well as any signed forms you might need from doctors or medical practitioners, it’s essential to keep your maternity notes with you. Therefore should you run into any unlikely issues during your flights, they will be able to know how to best assist you.
It’s also worth checking that your travel insurance covers any pregnancy-related medical care and keeping these documents close to hand as well.
Book a seat with more leg room
Not all of us have the budget to book business class. But if possible, try to reserve a seat at the front of the aisles. Generally, there is more leg room here, and if you have a particularly nice air hostess (like I did when flying with Qatar) then they will do their best to make you as comfortable as possible by giving you some props to keep your legs elevated during the flight. This will help reduce the risk of swelling (something I suffered from quite badly during the later stages of my pregnancy!).
Keep yourself mobile
Another trick for reducing the risk of swelling is by keeping yourself moving. Whenever it is safe to do so (when the seat-belt sign goes off) try to walk up and down the aisles when you aren’t resting or having a meal.
If you’re heavily pregnant and struggling to walk, try to do small stints here and there as every little helps. It’s important to keep your blood circulation going as much as possible to reduce the risk of clots, which in severe cases can travel to your lungs.
You may also want to consider compression socks which will all help when it comes to looking after your health during the flight.
Drink plenty of water
I would generally advise this on any flight, pregnant or not. However it is especially important to keep yourself hydrated during long haul flights as the pressurised cabin on a plane can make you more dehydrated and lead to oedema (water retention in the lower limbs). It not only reduces the risk of swelling, it will help prevent headaches and keep you feeling perky and refreshed. Just think of all those extra trips to the toilet as your excuse to get up moving! (And on that note, you may also want to consider booking an aisle seat so that you don’t have to repeatedly disturb other passengers when you do feel the need to go!)
Take lots of snacks
If you’re travelling for a long period of time, it’s also important to keep your energy levels up so be sure to stock up on duty free snacks after you have been through security. Nibbling on ginger biscuits are my top recommendation as they are great for easing nausea if you are prone to motion sickness. Pumpkin seeds and bananas, both rich in tryptophan, are also good for helping your body produce melatonin and serotonin, boosting feelings of well-being.
If you don’t manage to get any or want to avoid the added expense, don’t hesitate to ask the air hostesses if they could supply you with some extra snacks throughout your journey. Usually, they are pretty generous and good at checking up on you. When I recently flew with Qatar, they were kind enough to give me a goodies bag full of fruits, cereal bars and chocolate!
Try to get enough rest
When you’re not walking around or stuffing your face with snacks, try to get enough shut-eye. Especially if you are travelling overnight. Easier said than done I know! But try booking a seat where you think you’ll be most comfortable. I found that listening to some relaxing music would drown out the sound of the engine and other passengers and help me drift off. Keeping calm and relaxed throughout your flights is important as the stress hormone cortisol can cross your placenta and affect your unborn baby.
Last but not least, enjoy your trip!
If this is your first baby, now’s your chance to enjoy the luxury of uninterrupted time alone, with your partner or with friends. It’s also the last opportunity to make the most of travelling light! For the next few years, you’ll have to take a car seat, pushchair, nappies and toys with you wherever you go!
Have you ever flown while pregnant? Share your tips below.
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