How to Travel by Plane when Pregnant

 There are many reasons why a pregnant woman may need or want to travel by plane during pregnancy: business, vacation, family visits, holidays, emergencies, and more. It is important to know the ins and outs of airline travel when pregnant to help protect the safety and comfort of women and their unborn babies. Many airlines have special policies restricting the travel of pregnant women by plane after a certain time in the pregnancy; women must be prepared for a wide variety of challenges from the airlines and their own bodies. Plane travel during pregnancy is not easy, but with preparation, the whole process can go very smoothly.

Acquiring Permission to Fly While Pregnant

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    Consult an OB/GYN, a physician or healthcare provider for individual recommendations about airline travel during pregnancy.[1] [2]
    • Many healthcare professionals allow pregnant women to fly for the majority of their pregnancy, provided there are no known complications with the pregnancy, such as a ruptured placenta, gestational diabetes, or hypertension.[3]
    • Women who have previously experienced a miscarriage, premature delivery, fetal loss, stillbirth, or any of a number of other health risks may not receive approval from an obstetrician or midwife for travel by plane for any occasion during pregnancy, for fear that the current pregnancy is also high-risk.[4]
    • Certain conditions during pregnancy may be aggravated by plane travel, and flying has an unknown effect on many other conditions, making many medical experts cautious of endorsing travel by plane for women experiencing high-risk pregnancies.[5] [6]
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    Inform the airline about your pregnancy. Certain airlines will do what they can to assist pregnant women who need or want to fly, but can only provide assistance if they know about your particular circumstances. So be sure to ask what an airline will do for you before booking your ticket.[7] [8]
    • Ensure the airline will support you. Shop around, if necessary, to find an airline that supports and assists pregnant women during travel by plane. Just as some airlines are more permissive than others, certain companies are also more responsive to the needs of pregnant passengers.[9] [10]
    • Provided the airline has received notification of the pregnancy, some immediately offer choice seating, wheelchair escorts and other conveniences not routinely offered to most passengers.
    • Flying during pregnancy can be a much more pleasant experience when your chosen airline treats pregnant passengers with care and respect, so choose wisely.
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    Ask the airline about their restrictions. Inquire whether the airline in question has restrictions on how far along in pregnancy a woman is still allowed to travel and whether a physician’s release is required under any circumstances.
    • The closer a woman is to the expected delivery date, the less likely an airline will allow travel without the written consent of a physician or midwife (dated within a few days of the travel date). This is not only to limit their own liability but also to insure the safety and comfort of the woman and the other passengers.[11] [12]
    • Most airlines do not allow travel after 36 weeks gestation.[13] [14]
    • Trans-national and trans-oceanic flights may make traveling when pregnant more difficult, as some airlines require a note from a physician or midwife any time after the 28th week of pregnancy indicating that there are no complications with the pregnancy.[15] [16]
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    Be honest with the airline and your doctor. Make sure you provide accurate and comprehensive information about your pregnancy to your doctor and your airline before attempting to travel while pregnant.[17]
    • Tell your doctor about any problems you have had during your pregnancy, such as excessive nausea, pain in the pelvis, stomach, or abdomen, or other physical problems you have experienced. This is the only way your doctor can accurately assess whether or not you are fit to fly.[18]
    • Be exact when providing the airline with a timeline for your pregnancy. Estimating how far along you are or deliberately misleading the airline so that they will allow you to fly could have potentially damaging effects on your health and the health of your unborn baby.[19]

Flying While Pregnant

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    Request additional courtesies of the airline staff. Do not hesitate to let the airline staff know about your pregnancy. This may especially help when selecting a seat on the flight.
    • Inform the airline staff of the pregnancy and request the desired seat if the option is available. For instance, an aisle seat near the restroom may provide convenience for frequent trips to the toilet, while a seat at the bulkhead of the plane would offer extra legroom and personal space.[20] [21]
    • Women who have difficulty standing for long periods or walking considerable distances through the airport may also request wheelchair delivery and pick-up or escort on an airport indoor vehicle to drop them off and pick them up at the gate.
    • Blankets and pillows are usually available upon request as well.
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    Avoid heavy lifting. Do not hesitate to request assistance loading or unloading a bag into the overhead carriers, as you should avoid strenuous activity while pregnant.[22]
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    Stay hydrated. During the flight, many flight attendants will gladly serve additional beverages (particularly water or tea) or snacks to customers who request it.[23]
    • On long flights, stewards and stewardesses may also provide certain luxuries to pregnant customers otherwise only reserved for first class patrons, such as hot towels, lotions, eye masks, and more.
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    Plan for comfort. During a flight of any length, make sure you pack the essentials. A neck pillow, empty water bottle, heat pack, and healthy snacks may make a trying travel experience more pleasant.[24] [25]
    • It is important to drink plenty of water during and after the flight; air travel can dehydrate, so fill up after security or request water once seated.
    • For women traveling early in pregnancy, crackers and other snacks that may help quell nausea are vital.
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    Perform small exercises during the flight. It is important to keep blood flowing and reduce swelling or discomfort during a flight. One of the biggest risks of flying while pregnant is deep vein thrombosis. Moving around and stretching your calves can help minimize this risk. Flex your knees and roll your ankles and wrists in small circles. Occasionally, do leg lifts, back stretches, and short walks up and down the aisle. These small exercises can help reduce stiffness and minimize cramps or swelling when there is no turbulence, just take care to maintain balance by holding onto the seatbacks or the overhead bins.[26]
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    Wear supportive hosiery. Support hosiery can aid leg circulation during long periods of standing in line or sitting on the plane and help lower the risk of DVT.[27]
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