The Complete Guide To Flying Whilst Pregnant

flying pregnant

I recently found myself quite nervous at the prospect of a long haul flight at 25 weeks pregnant. This was mainly down to the fact I knew I wouldn’t be able to partake in my usual glass of wine to send me into dreamland at 30,000 feet, but also because it wasn’t just me I had to think about anymore.

Flying when pregnant is totally fine for most women, however I was naturally a bit apprehensive nonetheless. As well as my concerns for my unborn baby, I also knew I had to be a little bit more organised than the usual whiz around the house looking for neck-pillows, lost shoes, and passports ten minutes before leaving for the airport.

I scoured the internet for any advice or tips I could find, but found Google seriously lacking in practical information from other women who had experienced flying during pregnancy. So I decided to combine all the wisdom I did learn from other mothers-to-be, websites, and my own experience, to make it easier for the next woman in my pregnant shoes.

I hope this guide will help any mothers-to-be prepare for and breeze through flying!

What you’ll find in this guide:

  • Is it safe to fly when pregnant?
    • Do you need a doctor’s note?
  • Booking your flight
    • What to ask the airline
    • Choosing your seat
  • Preparation
    • What to wear
    • Hand luggage packing list
    • The day before
  • At the airport
  • In the air

This guide is mainly about flying long haul when pregnant (longer than 5 hours). Obviously more preparation, and most likely worry, will come with a long haul flight, or really anything over a couple of hours. If you are embarking on a short flight during pregnancy you will probably find some of this information useful for you as well.

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flying pregnant

Is It Safe To Fly When Pregnant?

For most women with a complication-free pregnancy, it is perfectly safe to fly up to a certain point in pregnancy. This varies airline to airline, but is usually up to around the 36 week mark, or 32 if you are carrying more than one baby. This is because no one wants to have to deal with you giving birth whilst they are trying to enjoy Game of Thrones and tuck into their miniature chicken dinner. Otherwise, flying is considered perfectly safe.

I would recommend flying in the second trimester, when you have your energy back in spades, and won’t need to throw up into your hand luggage.

Do You Need A Doctors Note?

With most airlines, you are able to fly up until 28 weeks without anything in writing from your doctor. Again, check with the specific airline before you book. When I flew at 25 weeks, I made sure I had a visit to my doctor the week of the flight for a check-up, and got him to print out my records showing the week I was in and that I was a low risk pregnancy. This was good to have just in case, but I didn’t need it.

I would recommend you carry your pregnancy file or important records with you, and of course important contact numbers. This should stay in your handbag all the way through your pregnancy anyway, but is especially important when you are travelling. 

Booking Your Flight

As mentioned above, make sure you check the specific airlines policy on flying when pregnant before you book. I also recommend taking out cancellation insurance just in case anything occurs prior to your flight that leaves you unable to fly. Of course, having your own medical insurance goes without saying and should be something you have already sorted out before you travel. Check the policy to ensure it covers pregnancy.

If possible, I really recommend booking a direct flight with no layovers. When I booked my flight from Miami to Manchester it took a lot of searching to find a direct flight in August for under £2,000, but it wasn’t impossible. A short layover can be stressful at the best of times, especially when your first flight is delayed. You DO NOT want to be running through an unknown airport trying to find your gate when pregnant. That kind of stress isn’t fun for anyone.

If this is not possible, do yourself a favour and break up your journey as much as you can. You might have only the destination in mind, however an extra 12 hours mid-way where you can book into an airport hotel and have a good night’s sleep is the responsible thing to do for a growing baby. When you are tucked up in those white hotel sheets with your room service next to your bed you will thank me.

What To Ask The Airline

I emailed the airline a few weeks prior to my flight to let them know that I was pregnant and to ask whether they offered any additional legroom for pregnant women. They didn’t, but I think it is worth a shot anyway. It is a good idea to have touched base prior to your flight, especially if you are over or around the 28 week mark. If you are flying in your first trimester I wouldn’t worry about doing this, but once your bump ‘pops’ and you are visibly showing you will probably feel much more comfortable having done this.

Choosing Your Seat

Once you have confirmed whether the airline offers any extra legroom for pregnant women or not (most likely not) by emailing them, you can go ahead and book your seat. I love using Seat Guru to get a bit more knowledge about the specific plane interior and tips on the best places to sit.

Important seating tip #1:

Whatever you do, do yourself a favour and sit next to the aisle. You might think you will sleep better next to the window, but trust me, unless you want the person next to you to throw a hissy-fit when you get up for the seventh time in seven hours, just sit next to the aisle.

Important seating tip #2:

Book yourself a seat with extra leg room. Unless you have legs that are exceptionally short or exceptionally long (lucky you), you will find that you can rest your feet perfectly on your little magazine rack. This will considerably reduce any swelling that might occur and will increase your comfort level considerably.

Important seating tip #3:

If at all possible, play on your pregnancy and make the father of your unborn child feel so bad about the whole thing he books you into first class. Devastatingly, on the airline I flew with from Miami to Manchester THERE WAS NO FIRST CLASS. This was especially upsetting to discover after I had successfully guilt-tripped my other half into agreeing to fit the bill.

flying pregnant

Preparation

What To Wear

Building up to your flight, you will need to actually plan what you are going to wear. Being this organised was quite a new experience for me, but here is what I learnt and what I would wear if I flew long haul when pregnant again.

Leggings

Just forget what you have read in the media about airlines turning their noses up at ladies in leggings. Do yourself a favour and wear them. You can look perfectly stylish and pulled together in a pair of these babies, but the most important thing is that you will be comfortable. I considered buying maternity leggings with inbuilt support, and probably would in the future, but to be honest I just wore my normal LuluLemon leggings. If you are looking for maternity leggings, I recommend these ones by Blanqi or these by JoJo Maman Bebe.

Compression Socks

These are super duper for reducing swelling by increasing blood flow on long haul flights. They should be tight, but not too tight. Try them on beforehand to make sure they fit correctly, as pregnancy can cause slight swelling in the feet and ankles anyway. I recommend these ones specifically designed for pregnancy.

A Support Vest

If you aren’t going to wear support leggings, I thoroughly recommend a support tank top. This isn’t so much for the flight but more for the ridiculous amount of walking many airports have you doing, especially with hand luggage to carry. I started to notice the effects of gravity on my bump around the 26 week mark, but you might feel it sooner. Having a vest top with built in bump support can really help with this achy feeling. My favourites are this one by maternity brand Blanqi  or this one by JoJo Maman Bebe which I have.

Loose Layers

Over your support vest, wear a longer cotton top, and then a loose cardigan, jacket or sweater. I would also make sure to take a scarf to use as an extra layer as well. Flying from a hot climate to cold, or vice versa, is tricky, and on board it can be freezing and yet the airport might be hot. Pregnancy can also cause your body temperature to be completely out of whack, therefore make sure you plan for this. I personally think a blazer to be the perfect outer layer, as it is comfy, stylish, and can be worn over several layers.

Footwear

I am on the hunt for the perfect pair of slip-on shoes which are stylish enough to not look like you are wearing your slippers for flying. I like to slip off my shoes in the air, however whatever you do WEAR SHOES WHEN YOU WALK AROUND THE PLANE. Plane toilets are not the place to paddle around in your fluffy socks. Until I find the perfect slip-ons, I recommend wearing a comfortable pair of trainers and packing a pair of flip-flops in your hand-luggage just in case you get a case of the swells. I wore compression socks and slipped my trainers on and off when I wanted to get up for a walk. Slip-on sneakers without laces such as these are a good choice, or I love these high tops that are extra comfy.

Hand Luggage Packing List

Bag/Suitcase

I really recommend using a carry-on case with wheels. This is the one I would use in future as I have heard great things about it and it is the perfect size. I lugged a heavy handbag around Miami airport which wasn’t fun. I would then keep a very small bag on your person which you can use for your passport, money, phone etc.

Memory Foam Neck Pillow

I have so many of these knocking round the house, but I recently invested in a memory foam one. It was so comfortable on the flight, and I also found a new use for it as a belly support when I had my tray table out. Give it a try! This one by Little Tree comes with an eye mask and ear plugs, all in a handy travel bag.

Water Bottle

A reusable water bottle, such as this Tervis one which I have, is a must-have for your carry-on. I take it with me empty, and fill it up at the water fountains as soon as I get through security. Try to drink a lot of water before you board, and then refill it so you have a full bottle for the flight.

Book – Sacred Pregnancy by Anni Daulter

I took the opportunity of having 8 hours without much to do to bond with my bump. This book is not only a week-by-week pregnancy guide, but also a journal allowing you to record personal thoughts and feelings. It is great to switch off and focus on the energy inside you. I noticed my baby kicked a lot during the flight – I don’t know if it was because of the noise or if he was thinking where the hell are you taking me, Mummy?! 

Sickness Kit

If you are prone to sickness, a soothing tea such as ginger will help combat it, so I would pop a few tea bags in your bag. I know pressure bands, such as these, are a Godsend for a lot of women and will help relieve travel sickness as well. A flannel might be a good thing to pack in case you feel very ill. You can soak it in cold water and wrap a few ice cubes inside to use as a cold compress for your forehead. Remember to pack a spare ziplock bag to pop it in afterwards.

Personal Care

Make sure you carry-on anything your doctor has said you can take for any ailments you have during your pregnancy. I packed heartburn relief tablets, Tylenol, and my prenatal vitamins. I also find it really important to carry antibacterial lotion when you are in busy places such as airports. I absolutely LOVE this natural lavender spray version which I bought in the US which you can buy on Amazon here. It smells incredible! The other thing I always have on hand is lip balm as my lips get so dry when I am flying. I did pack a sheet face mask but I have still not ever had the courage to use one when flying solo! 

Snacks

I never find the need for extra snacks on flights as I always think they do pretty well at keeping you fed. However I did get really hungry waiting to board, as there was a bit of a delay. I recommend carrying a few high-protein snacks, such as nuts or a granola bar, for when you feel a little peckish.

The Day Before

Try and have a restful day the day prior to your flight, and make sure you get enough sleep. During my flight I didn’t hardly sleep a wink, and so I was grateful to have had a good nights sleep the night before.

I always do this anyway, but it is even more important to try and drink A LOT of water over the 24 hours before your flight. I also drank a Pedialight (rehydration drink for those in the UK who don’t know what this is) the morning before my flight. I don’t know if this is recommended, but I felt like it helped me not lose hydration during the flight and I also didn’t get any swelling at all afterwards.

flying pregnant

At The Airport

When you check in, be sure to alert the stewardesses (if they don’t already notice) that you are expecting, so they can inform the crew. I asked them if it was possible to board early, which was fine, and also chatted to them about my seat to ensure I had extra leg room. You never know, you may even get treated to an upgrade 😉

At security, I recommend asking for a pat-down rather than going through the scanners. I did a bit of research on this, and although there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the x-rays are harmful for the baby, there is no long term research on this, and it is always better safe than sorry.

I found that I just needed to ask, or simply alert people to my bump, in order to skip queues and be treated with more care. I was so impressed and happy with how I was treated at both Miami and Manchester airports, as the airport staff went above and beyond to help me out. A particularly lovely member of staff at Manchester baggage claim spotted me though the crowds of people and waited with me until my suitcases came through so he could load them on to my trolley for me. Such an appreciated help!

In The Air

You’ve done all the prep work, now is time for the flight itself. I have pretty much covered everything to have you all ready for an enjoyable flight. One last thing to mention however is that in addition to toilet breaks, make sure you get up and stretch your legs FREQUENTLY. This is recommended anyway as you will know, but for pregnancy it is really important. I got up around once every hour, or at least stretched my legs.

Don’t be a pregnancy martyr and get help when you need it. I don’t want to see any ladies with big bumps struggling to stash their hand luggage in the overhead lockers. Just ask some one to help!

Lastly, lay back and enjoy the peace and quiet for a few hours. A long haul flight is such a lovely time to just do nothing but watch movies and be fed in your seat. Baby will enjoy this to, so relax, and have a stress-free journey. You never know, your next long-haul might be with a screaming baby to soothe, so really this journey will be a breeze in comparison!

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