Air Travel-Flying When Pregnant

Air Travel – What About Flying When Pregnant?

If you have already booked a holiday, or would like to go on the last holiday before your newborn arrives, you may wish to know more about flying when pregnant. In this feature we’ve put together the following information:

  1. Flying when pregnant overview
  2. What are the main risks of flying when pregnant?
  3. What the British Medical Journal has to say about flying when pregnant, and other medical studies
  4. Flying during pregnancy-what Heathrow Airport advises
  5. Air Travel During Pregnancy Advice
  6. Aer Lingus policy about flying when pregnant
  7. Ryanair policy about flying when pregnant

1. Flying When Pregnant Overview

Aerlingus flying when pregnantIn general flying while pregnant is not a problem, except if your pregnancy is  complicated in some way. If you are experiencing problems in your pregnancy it would be a good idea to consult with your health care provider before making any travel plans, and plenty of women prefer to check either way. To be on the safe side, get the green light from the medical practitioner.

Once you’ve done this, if you haven’t already booked a holiday, then take some time to think about your destination. In reality there aren’t too many women who wish to go too far in the first trimester, if anywhere at all. For most pregnant women, the second trimester is the clear winner for long haul travel.

2. What are the main risks of flying when pregnant?

air travel when pregnant

Photo by Maarten Visser

The risks of air travel during pregnancy are deep-vein thrombosis, miscarriage and premature birth.

Also bear in mind that the British Medical Journal highlights the fact that there is a limit on robust evidence which makes it difficult for healthcare professionals to provide definitive advice.

3. What the British Medical Journal has to say about flying when pregnant, and other medical studies

So to clarify, there are various generic guidelines but given that air travel and pregnancy is a relatively new topic the British Medical Journal (BMJ) states that the only way to completely avoid the risks is by postponing air travel.  The BMJ does also state that air travel may either be necessary or desirable in pregnancy.

Just below is the synopsis of a medical study regarding flying when pregnant, however the overall body of evidence does state exactly what we said at the beginning of this article. Additionally read a little further down to see what the the airport authorities and airlines also have to say on the subject.

Adverse outcome of pregnancy following air travel: a myth or a concern?

This study about travelling by plane tested pregnant women, who were essentially healthy, to find out if air travel during pregnancy could cause adverse pregnancy outcomes.  Women who took part in the study were all over 20 weeks, and the method of the study was retrospective, assessing the 992 women who took part in it. The study concluded that women who travelled by plane during pregnancy were at higher risk of preterm birth. However it must be noted that multi-centre, much larger studies need to be carried out in order to confirm these findings.

4. Flying During Pregnancy-What Heathrow Airport Advises

Heathrow airport also agrees with the fact that is generally safe for pregnant women to fly, but of course does reiterate the fact that each airline does have its own guidelines. Heathrow airport advises:

  1. To make sure you get the all clear from your doctor before flying when pregnant
  2. Its most risky to fly up to around 12 to 15 weeks of your pregnancy. It also very risky after 30 weeks.
  3. Also there are many airlines won’t accept women who are pregnant after 28 weeks.
  4. To be aware that even though you may be within the ideal time to travel during pregnancy, long hair flights can be especially uncomfortable, and of course you need to be aware of what lies ahead at your destination.
  5. Bearing that in mind and when you’re travelling to you definitely need to discuss immunisation with your doctor. There are certain vaccines which of course, do need to be avoided during pregnancy.
  6. If you are travelling during pregnancy tried to take some medical records with you, especially including your blood group information.
  7. As well as considering how far your destination is, in terms of the long haul flight, and of course the time difference for jetlag, at the time of this you may also wish to think about the language differences.
  8. To be sure to check the fine print of your travel insurance, ensuring that it covers you during pregnancy.

5. Air Travel During Pregnancy Advice

The majority of pregnancies are low risk and if you fall into this category the general guidelines below should apply to you.  However please note that these are guidelines only and you should always consult your own healthcare provider.

  • The second trimester (18-24 weeks) is considered to be the safest time to fly when pregnant. It is during this time that most women should be feeling at their best and there is generally the lowest risk of miscarrying or premature labour.
  • If you feel that you will want fly during pregnancy then before making your final decision consider the destination you are planning to fly to.  Is it well equipped medically if you had a need?
  • Are you considering flying to a destination where there are specific risks of acquiring infectious diseases? Infectious diseases acquired abroad may increase risks of perinatal morbidity.
  • If this is the case you may wish to reconsider the destination or if it is necessary to fly there you should definitely consult with your healthcare provider.
  • Check out the airlines policies on flying when pregnant, as these differ from airline to airline.
  • Buy the most suitable insurance cover for your journey.
  • Ask for an aisle seat with extra legroom when possible.
  • If you are flying when pregnant then wear clothing which does not restrict movement and is loose and comfortable.
  • Make sure you drink a lot of fluids when flying while pregnant.
  • Every half an hour you should get up and walk around a bit if possible.
  • While sitting-be aware of flexing your feet and stretching your legs to keep the circulation healthy.
  • Do circulatory exercises as detailed usually in the flight magazine and wear compression socks (flight socks).
  • Fasten your safety belt across the tops of the thighs so that it rests under your stomach.

6. Aer Lingus policy about flying when pregnant

aer lingus policy for air travel in pregnancyThe policy for Aer Lingus about flying when pregnant does depend on which route you are taking. If you’re flying between the UK and Ireland, at 32 weeks you can fly with written permission from your doctor. If you wish to fly between weeks 32 and 35 then you will need to bring one of the Aer Lingus Expectant Mother Forms.

On other routes, you need to have written permission to week 28 from your doctor or midwife. Then between weeks 28 to 33 you’ll need to bring the Aer Lingus Expectant Mother Form and from week 34 you cannot fly any longer with Aer Lingus

7. Ryanair policy about flying when pregnant

If your pregnancy is uncomplicated then up to week 28 you can travel with Ryanair. From this week onwards you will need written permission from your midwife or doctor. Just like Aer Lingus, Ryanair also has a form that you need to fill out, you can find that form by clicking on pregnancy permission Ryanair.

If you’re giving birth to twins are multiples of any kind, you won’t be able to travel with Ryanair from the end of week 32.

If you pregnancies singleton, you will be at travel up until the end of week 36.

Flying When Pregnant-Potential Medical Concerns

ryanair policy for flying when pregnantMedical professionals will potentially be concerned about the method of travel-air travel as well as the destination, healthcare facilities there and adequate insurance coverage.

The doctor will want to assess the fitness of his pregnant patient to fly and will focus on blood pressure readings and ultrasound pregnancy scans findings.

The doctor will analyse if the woman is at an increased risk of miscarriage, premature labour, pre-delivery haemorrhage or pre-eclampsia.  He/she will also assess if the woman has any pre-existing conditions such as asthma or diabetes.

Is There Any Evidence Of Risk Of Miscarriage When Flying During Pregnancy?

At the time of writing there has been no evidence to date which would suggest that flying when pregnant increases the risk of miscarriage.  However there are studies which reveal that female flight attendants do have a higher miscarriage rate than the rate of their peers.

Even though there is no evidence to point towards a heightened risk of miscarriage when flying during pregnancy; if a miscarriage were to occur it would be more difficult to manage it.

Flying When Pregnant Conclusion

Consider the destination, healthcare facilities, the stage of pregnancy you intend to fly during, and consult with your healthcare practitioner who will take into account your medical history, pregnancy scans findings and your travel destination.  One last point is that kind of a worst case scenario-but if you were not able to return home for some reason this would mean you would need to spend the remainder of your pregnancy away from home.

Looking for more pregnancy information, here are some digital magazines we have produced for you: