What should I do before I fly?
Talk to your midwife
You may find it helpful to talk to your midwife or GP about your travel plans before you book your flight. Some women try to avoid travelling in the first few weeks of pregnancy because tiredness and nausea (sickness) can be worse in the early stages (first trimester).
Check the airline’s policy for pregnant travellers
You should be able to find the airline’s policy on their website. Most airlines don’t need you to tell them you are pregnant until 28 weeks.
After that most airlines will want you to carry a letter from your GP or midwife saying:
- that you’re in good health
- that you have an uncomplicated pregnancy
- what your estimated due date is
- how many babies you are expecting.
Some airlines may require medical clearance if:
- your delivery date is less than 4 weeks after your departure date
- complications are expected in your delivery.
Check the terms and conditions of your travel insurance
Most travel insurance will only cover you for possible complications, not for routine treatments or a normal birth. Make sure a policy covers you for every eventuality before you buy it. For example, will it cover the cost of medical treatment for any pregnancy complications or transport home if you give birth early?
When will I have to stop flying?
Many airlines will not carry pregnant women after 36 weeks or 32 weeks if they are carrying more than one baby. This is because the chances of them going into labour on the journey are much higher.
Tips for flying during pregnancy
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg. DVT isn’t common in pregnancy, but you are more likely to develop it than non-pregnant women of the same age.
Flying for more than 4 hours increases the risk of getting blood clots (thrombosis), although it’s not known if this risk gets higher when you’re pregnant.
You can reduce the risk of getting blood clots by:
- wearing compression stockings (you can buy these over the counter in pharmacies)
- doing calf exercises
- walking around the plane often
- wearing loose, comfortable clothes.
Where to go
It’s best to try to avoid visiting countries or areas where you need vaccinations. This is because some vaccines that use small amounts of live bacteria or viruses could harm the baby in the womb. You should also try to avoid travelling to countries with a high risk of malaria and Zika virus.
Talk to your GP, doctor or midwife if you can’t avoid travelling. If there is a high risk of disease in the place you’re travelling to, you may be advised to have the vaccine. This is because most diseases will be more harmful to your baby than a vaccine will be.
You may find it useful or reassuring to find out what maternity care is available at your destination in case you need urgent medical attention. It's a good idea to take your pregnancy notes with you so you can give doctors the relevant information if necessary.
NHS has more information about getting healthcare abroad.