Travel in pregnancy

Who is this information for?

This information is for you if you are considering travelling when pregnant. The information is relevant for all length of flights.

  • Before 37 weeks if you are carrying one baby. From 37 weeks of pregnancy, the chance of you going into labour is significantly increased – which is why many women choose not to fly after this time. Some airlines do not allow women to fly after 37 weeks, while others do not allow women to fly from earlier in the pregnancy, for example after 34 weeks. You may find it more difficult to get travel insurance after 37 weeks.
  • Before 32 weeks if you are carrying an uncomplicated twin pregnancy.

 

If you are taking a short-haul flight/car journey (<4hrs), it is unlikely that you will need to take any special measures.

There is no increased risk of going into labour or bleeding unless you travel long-haul frequently.

Some common problems can be:

  • Swelling of your legs due to fluid retention.
  • Nasal congestion. During pregnancy you are more likely to be congested, and this, combined with the lowered air pressure in the plane, can cause you to experience problems with your ears.
  • Pregnancy sickness. If you experience motion sickness during the flight, it can make your pregnancy sickness worse.
  • Deep vein thrombosis in your leg, calf or pelvis.

There is no risk to you or your baby with body scanners.

A medical problem can complicate your pregnancy. For this reason, if you have or are experiencing any of the following during pregnancy, you may be advised not to fly:

  • You have severe anaemia.
  • You are affected with sickle cell anaemia and/or have recently had a sickling crisis.
  • Recently had significant vaginal bleeding.
  • You are affected with a serious condition affecting your lungs or heart.
  • You have recently had surgery to your abdomen.
  • If you have a fracture.
  • Otitis media and sinusitis.

A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot, which forms in your leg, calf or pelvis.

When you are pregnant and for up to 6 weeks after birth of your baby, you have a higher risk of developing a DVT. The effects of sitting still for long periods of time in sometimes cramped conditions can increase the risk of DVT further.

  1. Wear graduated elastic compression stockings (these can be available from your doctor or local pharmacy).
  2. Try to get an aisle seat and take regular walks around the plane every 30 mins.
  3. Drink plenty of water throughout the flight.
  4. Not take sleeping tablets, which cause immobility.
  5. Try a few simple exercises every 30 minutes to keep your legs moving, for example:
    1. Ankle Circles– Lift feet off the floor. Draw a circle with the toes, simultaneously moving one foot clockwise and the other foot counter clockwise for 15 seconds.
    2. Foot Pumps– Foot motion is in three stages. 1. Start with both heels on the floor and point feet upward as high as you can. 2. Put both feet flat on the floor. 3. Lift heels high, keeping balls of feet on the floor. Repeat these 3 stages in a continuous motion.
    3. Knee Lifts– Lift leg with knee bent while contracting your thigh muscle. Alternate legs. Repeat 20 to 30 times for each leg.

Whatever the length of the flight, if you have additional risk factors for DVT, you should consult your doctor.

There is no reason not to travel by car when you are pregnant, but you will need plenty of stops for the toilet and to stretch your legs. As with plane journeys, the effects of sitting for long periods of time can increase your risk of DVT further, and therefore follow the steps to minimise this risk.

  • You should ALWAYS wear a seat belt when you are travelling in a car.
  • Wear the lap portion so that it fits across your thighs and hips, and under your bump. The diagonal shoulder portion of the belt should sit over your collarbone and between your breasts.
  • As your pregnancy progresses past 12 weeks, you may find it more comfortable and safer to use a maternity seatbelt.
  • If you are planning on travelling abroad, you should ALWAYS discuss flying or long car journeys with your midwife or GP.
  • Check with your airline and insurance company that they will allow you to travel while pregnant, as the restrictions can vary.
    After 28 weeks, most airlines require a letter from your midwife or GP confirming:

That you are in good health, have a normal pregnancy and the expected date of delivery.

  • Follow guidance to minimise your risk of DVT.
  • Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes.
  • Adjust your seatbelt so the strap lies below your bump.
  • What are the medical facilities at your destination, in case of any complications?
  • Do you have all your immunisations and recommended medication for the country you are travelling to?
  • Does you travel insurance cover pregnancy and care for your baby if you give birth unexpectedly?