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Flying While Pregnant: What You Should Know

The Duchess of Sussex, formerly Meghan Markle, made headlines, when she traveled overseas to New York while seven months pregnant. While many were interested to learn why she was back in the U.S., others questioned the safety of her traveling by air when she was that far along.

When you’re newly pregnant – especially for the first time – you’re told certain things are off limits, like lunch meat, alcohol, hot tubs and contact sports. How much truth is found in the warnings around air travel with a bun in the oven?

According to recommendations by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), as long as the mom-to-be and the fetus are healthy, a woman can travel safely until she is 36 weeks pregnant. Although it is generaly safe, here are some helpful tips if you plan on traveling during your pregnancy.

Check Airline and Insurance Policies

Restrictions around flying while pregnant vary from airline to airline and based on the length of the flight. Contact your carrier and ask about their policy for pregnant travelers. You may also require a doctor’s note, so inquire if you need a doctor’s note verifying your due date. 

You’ll also want to check with your health insurance plan to make sure you’re covered if you need any medical care or deliver early in the U.S. or overseas. If traveling overseas, you may need to purchase supplemental insurance or medical evacuation insurance.

Get Cleared for Takeoff

Whether traveling for work or for pleasure, check in with your doctor early on in your pregnancy and let them know. “It is usually safe to fly if you have a normal, healthy pregnancy,” says Dr. Michael Bradfield, MD, Banner Health family medicine physician at Banner North Colorado Family Medicine in Greely, CO. “But it is safest during the second trimester.”

Dr. Bradfield cautions pregnant women who may have a high-risk pregnancy, are at risk for blood clots, or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or have a history of preterm deliveries. 

“When you are pregnant, you are more likely to experience DVT due to an increase in estrogen levels and the possible pressure your baby is putting on the veins in your pelvis,” Dr. Bradfield says. “Your doctor may advise that you avoid flying late in pregnancy.”

If you could be at risk for deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, Dr. Bradfield says to heed recommendations from the ACOG and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which include:

  • Wearing compression stockings to help with blood flow and loose clothing
  • Drinking lots of fluid
  • Walking and stretching often
  • Limiting air travel to four hours or less

“If you are unsure, you can also call your physician with any questions or concerns,” he says.

Book an Aisle Seat

To avoid the awkwardness of asking your seatmates to keep standing up so you can stretch your legs or trying to get your growing belly through that obscenely tight row, book an aisle seat. As your belly grows, so does your need to use the bathroom more often. It’s good to have the restroom and aisle handy.

Avoid Developing Countries

“I would avoid any developing nations during pregnancy and definitely any areas where mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Zika, dengue, malaria and yellow fever are present,” Dr. Bradfield says.

Traveling to areas where Zika outbreaks are ongoing may put you and your baby at risk, so check the CDC website for information. Zika, along with the other diseases Dr. Bradfield mentions, are not only dangerous for you, but they are especially dangerous for your baby.

Have a Contingency Plan

Even if you are in the best shape of your life while pregnant, it’s always best to be prepared. Locate the nearest hospital or medical clinic in the place you’ll be visiting. You can also check on your health insurance website to locate an in-network doctor at your destination.

When in doubt, reach out. If you have concerns or questions, don’t feel bad about asking your caring physician. To find an OBGYN in your area, visit bannerhealth.com/physician-directory.

Women's Health Wellness Pregnancy