Travelling While Pregnant

Your need-to-know guide for entering the world of family travel!

Travelling while pregnant throws up (pardon the pun) some additional health and airline regulation issues that you need to consider before arranging to fly or travel overseas.

Flying Pregnant

Airline Rules For Flying Pregnant

Every airline will have its own rules around the latest date you can fly before your due date. The standard cut-off limit for flying without a doctor’s letter is normally between 28 and 32 weeks  – however, you should always check with the individual airline before travelling.  Bear in mind multiples pregnancies will have an earlier cut-off date.  

Regardless of the airlines cut off, I have always tried to get a doctor’s letter as soon as my bump is obvious in case I am challenged.  I have only had this occur on one occasion when I was right on 28 weeks. (A doctor’s letter should state how far along you are, that it’s a healthy pregnancy, the number of babies due, the estimated due date and that there is no known reason not to travel).

Check whether your airline has a specific form that needs completing and time restriction, i.e. letter dated within seven days of travel.

We have a fully comprehensive guide to everything you need to consider when flying pregnant here, including the expectant mother policy of over 40 airlines.

General advice for flying while pregnant

  • To avoid health issues when flying, some fairly stock standard advice should be followed, particularly keeping yourself well hydrated, bringing your own healthy snacks and doing regular circulation exercises.
  • Ask for extra pillows to keep yourself propped up and see if the airline will give you the bulkhead for extra legroom (see also the planning flights page) – at the very least, try to get an aisle seat (or spoil yourself at this point to an upgrade, especially if you are toddler free!).
  • You should try to move around as much as possible during the flight – believe me; you are likely to be peeing three times as often as you normally do anyway, so use the opportunity to stretch your legs and walk to a bathroom further away.  
  • Whether you have other children with you or not, allow yourself extra waddle time at the airport, or be cheeky and try to grab one of the little airport carts if they will let you!
  • Some doctors also recommend wearing pressure socks and taking a small dose of aspirin before the flight to avoid blood clotting (deep vein thrombosis).
  • Ultimately the best advice is to speak to your doctor or midwife before you fly and discuss any concerns you might have, you may have extenuating circumstances if you are in a high-risk pregnancy where they do not recommend flying at all, but for the average, healthy pregnancy it shouldn’t be a problem and no excuse for not continuing to explore the world.
The Ultimate Guide to Flying Pregnant | Everything first time flying mums should know before take off

If you change airlines during the journey, or the airline you’ve booked with runs on a codeshare, the other airline’s policy may differ from the one you think you have booked with.  You don’t want to find yourself stranded mid-travel all for the sake of having the right documents with you or not having checked the fine print.

Beyond 36 weeks, unless you’re flying situation is an emergency and a doctor is willing to provide you with clearance, it is highly unlikely any international airline will accept you for travel. 

Frankly, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being cooped up on a plane that far along in a pregnancy! Each to their own, of course, and sometimes with overseas living arrangements or work commitments, it cannot be avoided.

Domestic airlines which cover shorter distances over land tend to be more lenient on these rules.  US airlines, for example, do not have any restrictions.

Other Common Health Issues Travelling Pregnant

If you are suffering from morning sickness you may want to avoid travel during your first trimester and, if you’re unlucky, well beyond this time until your body can cope with the demands of travel.

Pregnancy Travel Advice | OurGlobetrotters.Net
Bump # 2 in Orlando

Most doctors also advise against flying at any time during pregnancy without a pressurized cabin (i.e. avoid small aircraft) as your body has to work extra hard to supply you and your baby with sufficient oxygen. Commercial airliners with pressurised cabins should not be a problem.

The other question that pregnant women commonly ask is about the safety of going through airport security screening.  Without a medical degree, I cannot authoritatively tell you it’s perfectly safe, but with my common-sense hat on and after a fair bit of research, I can tell you the chances of radiation from security screening having any fetal effect are microscopic. 

A pregnant woman is, however, perfectly within her rights to request a pat-down rather than walk through a screening device.

Vaccines & Diseases to Consider Travelling While Pregnant

You may also wish to defer travel while pregnant to any location that requires vaccines that involve injecting the live virus; this includes vaccines for yellow fever, typhoid, MMR, BCG.

Countries which are prone to malaria should also be avoided.  If your inoculations are up to date, then take the usual precautions (see more on the Health issues page).

See our special resource page concerning the Zika virus and precautions to take against mosquito-borne illnesses that can have severe consequences for both pregnant women and unborn fetuses.

Advice for Pregnant Travellers: At Your DestinationPregnancy Travel Advice | OurGlobetrotters.Net

As for when you arrive at your destination, be careful what you eat! Many over-the-counter medications are not recommended for use during pregnancy, including those used to treat diarrhoea, so take precautions, being extra wary of uncooked meats and unpasteurized foods. 

If you do run into trouble while travelling its best to seek a doctor’s advice, particularly where there could be language barriers.  A pharmacy may not understand your situation or have qualified staff on hand (images of me pointing to my belly and my bottom in Indonesia do spring to mind here!).

It also helps to research what health facilities are available at your destination in case of an emergency and bring some documentation with you evidencing your pregnancy and expected due date. 

Again, a lesson I learnt all too well the hard way when I found myself searching for a maternity hospital in Cuba and not speaking a word of Spanish. Don’t expect your insurance company to immediately jump to your rescue in these sorts of situations either, even if they claim to offer 24-hour assist.

Lastly, be prepared for the fact that pregnant women can receive a lot of attention in some countries, maybe more than you are used to at home.  Try to take this in a good way, smile and accept offers to help with gratitude; one day, you may be able to return the favour. I am afraid bump touchers exist wherever you go in the world!

Check Out Our Pregnancy and Newborn Blog Posts

Complete guide to travelling pregnant - from health issues to airline regulations | Our Globetrotters Family Travel Blog

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More Pregnancy Travel Information

We have included links below to publicly available information on this topic from government bodies that may help you in your travel planning.

Safe travels mamma-to-be!

© Our Globetrotters

2 thoughts on “Travelling While Pregnant

  1. Rowena says:

    Don’t forget to check your travel insurance as well. You may need to inform them of your pregnancy or they may not cover you if you travel within a certain number of weeks of your due date. You do not want to be stuck in a foreign country without insurance as you missed a simple call!

  2. Danni says:

    While traveling later in my pregnancy I had the required doctor certificate but forgot about the dd/mm/yy verses mm/dd/yy issue of travelling between Australia and the USA. I was due on the 7th Sept hence my medical certificate said 7/9/13. I flew home on the 8th July which appeared to be one day before my due date if you read the date as a USA date. It was just lucky the certificate wasn’t checked by the USA airline.

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