Chloe

Flying during pregnancy

How frequently can I fly (short-distance flights below 4 hours duration) when I am pregnant (more than 28 weeks, low risk pregnancy)? Can flying every 2 weeks harm my baby?

1 March 2021

Thank you for contacting us here at Ask the Expert.

According to the Royal College of Gynaecologists and NHS Guidelines flying during pregnancy is safe and unlikely to harm your baby or cause you to go into premature labour, miscarry or the breaking of your waters.

In relation to frequent flying you will have some exposure to natural radiation from scanning equipment etc. but again this is unlikely to cause any harm to yourself and the baby.

You may find that some airlines will request that you have notification from your GP or midwife that it is medically safe for you to fly, that you are not having a high risk pregnancy and notification regarding how many weeks pregnant you are or when the baby is due to be born.

Usually after 28 weeks of pregnancy this information will be required but, it is important to check with the individual airlines what documentation is needed as these may vary and they may have their own forms that you are required to fill in prior to the scheduled flight.

General recommendations suggested by the RCOG are that if it is a singleton pregnancy then a woman should not fly after 37 weeks gestation and this is reduced to 32 weeks if the woman is carrying an uncomplicated twin pregnancy.

Most airlines will not allow women to travel after they are 37 weeks pregnant due to the increased chances of labour commencing naturally after this point and it may also be difficult obtaining travel insurance to cover you flying after 37 weeks of pregnancy too.

During pregnancy however you are at increased risk of developing blood clots particularly where you are restricted mobility wise such as long haul flights over 4 hours.

Recommendations to reduce the risk of you developing blood clots and to help keep you comfortable whilst flying include:

  • Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Do calf exercises – most airlines provide information on these.
  • Don't sit still for a long time – walk around the aircraft when possible.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • Adjust your seatbelt so the strap lies below your bump.
  • Wear anti-embolic stockings.

Sometimes flying can cause swelling to the ankles, nasal and ear congestion and worsen pregnancy related nausea but these symptoms should ease once the flight is over.

Please ensure that throughout the pregnancy, each time you fly that you have travel insurance cover and your maternity notes with you in case of any emergency situation that may need medical intervention.

Enclosed are a selection of sites for further information regarding flying whilst pregnant:

NHS - Travelling in pregnancy (Accessed 25 February 2021)

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) - Air travel and pregnancy – all you need to know. (Accessed 25 February 2021)

British Airways FAQ: Flying when you're pregnant. (Accessed 25 February 2021)

www.tui.co.uk Is it safe to fly while I’m pregnant? (Accessed 25 February 2021)

Wishing you all the best,

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses.