Once you get pregnant there are a fair few rules to follow to keep you and your baby as safe as possible. You’ll quickly learn what you can and eat and be told to sleep on your left-hand side in bed, but what about the rules of going abroad? Before you book a babymoon or last-minute trip before your baby’s due, make sure you know the latest travel guidance for pregnancy or you may not be allowed on board the plane.
‘It’s not just a case of timing your trip so it’s long before your due date, you may also need to be organised and have a ‘fit to fly’ letter to be allowed on the plane – both to jet off and to be able to come home,’ says ZoomDoc GP, Dr Leah Austin.
So, whether you have a trip in the pipeline or are thinking of booking one, here’s everything you need to know about flying during pregnancy.
Can you fly during pregnancy?
Assuming you get the go-ahead from your midwife or doctor, whether you are allowed to fly is up to the airline you’re travelling with, as they set the rules on this. As there’s a higher risk of going into labour from 37 weeks (32 weeks for multiples), most will not let you travel after 36 weeks (around 32 weeks for multiples).
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) explains the main reason behind this cut-off date:
‘The key focus in assessment of fitness to fly is the health and well-being of the mother and the baby. Delivery in flight, or diversion in flight to a location, which may not have high quality obstetric services, is undesirable. For this reason, most airlines do not allow travel after 36 weeks for a single pregnancy and after 32 weeks for multiple pregnancies.’
Here’s what some specific airlines currently say about flying with them in pregnancy:
‘If you’re pregnant, you can travel up until the end of your 35th week (32nd week for multiple pregnancies). Please make sure you complete all return journeys no later than week 32/35 depending on pregnancy type.’
‘For an uncomplicated single pregnancy, travel is not permitted beyond the end of the 36th week of pregnancy. For an uncomplicated twins, triplets etc. pregnancy, travel is not permitted beyond the end of the 32nd week of pregnancy.’
‘Travel not permitted from 36 weeks or greater, 34 weeks or greater for multiples.’
‘Travel is permitted up to the end of the 36th week for single pregnancies and the end of the 32nd week for multiple births (e.g. twins).’
Is it safe to fly during pregnancy?
Just because you can fly during pregnancy doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily want to. If you’re nervous of flying during pregnancy in case it harms your baby, rest assured it won’t.
If you’d rather avoid flying, particularly during your first trimester, you’re not alone.
‘Flying will do no harm to your baby but some women prefer to stay close to home during their first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage is at its highest, whether you travel or not. You may also be battling morning sickness and the thought of air travel could be too much,’ says Dr Leah.
Of course, flying is only safe for your pregnancy if your doctor or midwife says it is. If you’ve been told not to due to pregnancy complications or health conditions then air travel is a no-go for you, whatever stage you’re at or however confident you feel about jetting off.
How to prove you’re ‘fit to fly’
Most airlines will require you to have a ‘fit to fly’ certificate or letter from your GP if you’re travelling after or around the 28-week mark. You may not need to show it but should carry it with you in your hand luggage. Easyjet is one of few airlines saying you don’t need one at all, but it’s a good idea to take one, just in case.
The certificate will confirm your due date, how far along you are and that you have no pregnancy complications preventing you from flying.
You can ask your GP practice for a certificate but ‘you may have to pay for the letter and wait several weeks before you get it’, says the NHS website.
Another way to get one is via ZoomDoc’s Medical Letters Service. Simply select the ‘Pregnancy Fit To Fly’ option to get a same-day letter sent to you for £40, no appointment necessary.
‘Our team of experienced medical professionals will assess your medical history and current health status to provide you with the necessary letter, ensuring that both you and your baby are safe to travel,’ says Dr Leah.
Other top tips for travelling in pregnancy
- Travel insurance – double check yours covers you for pregnancy abroad.
- Medical notes – take yours with, just in case.
- Car travel – make sure you wear your seatbelt with the cross strap between your breasts and the lap strap across your pelvis under your bump, not across your bump.
- Move around – if you’re on a plane or in a car for several hours, make sure to move around to keep the blood flowing or wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots.
- Drink plenty of water – check if tap water is safe to drink and if in doubt, drink bottled water instead.
- Watch what you eat – stick to the rules of what to eat and what not to eat, especially abroad. Make sure fish and meat is piping hot and cooked through to avoid food poisoning.