It is safe to fly while pregnant. The NHS advises that women who are having uncomplicated pregnancies can travel, but there is a heightened risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and you should check with your doctor before going.
It is best not to fly before 12 weeks or after 28 weeks. After that, when the risk of going into labour increases, the airline will require a letter from your GP stating that you are fit to travel and confirming your estimated due date. Each airline has its own set of rules, so it's important you check the airline's website or tell the booking agent that you are pregnant and check that you may still fly.
Scheduled airlines tend to let women fly up to around 34 weeks. When you go on a package holiday, a charter flight is usually included in the price. It's not always obvious which airline is being used so you need to discuss your pregnancy with the holiday company so it can advise you about the airline and its regulations. Ryanair and easyJet both allow expectant mothers to travel up to 36 weeks with a doctor's letter from 27 weeks. Ferry operators have similar rules to airlines (always check before you travel). Neither Eurostar nor Eurotunnel have any restrictions.
Before take-off ...
Telephone the airline in advance and see if you can book a bulkhead seat (the bulkhead is the partition that divides a plane into different sections, between Business Class and Economy for example). At check-in (arrive early - you will be competing against families with young children also keen to get bulkhead seats), explain that you are pregnant and ask if there is any possibility of being upgraded, or having a seat with a couple of spares next to you. If you can afford it, the best solution to backache and sore ankles is to travel Premium Economy or Business Class. Use our legroom report, a guide to seat pitches on various airlines to see what you can expect.
As pregnant women are relatively high-risk, many insurers stipulate that they will not provide cover if the pregnant woman does not have at least eight weeks to go before her due date on the day she returns from holiday (around 32 weeks' pregnant for most women). Other insurers have an even lower threshold of 27 or 28 weeks. That means that while you could still claim for losses unrelated to your pregnancy, you would not be covered if you had to cancel your holiday or incurred losses in connection with your pregnancy. If you are used to travelling frequently and already have an annual policy, you will need to call your insurer for advice on its rules. If not, shop around for a single policy, remembering to tell insurance providers that you are pregnant. Make sure you have your EHIC card and always carry it with you on holidays around Europe. It shows you are eligible for free or reduced cost emergency medical care. It is not a substitute for travel insurance as it only covers emergency care and will not cover the cost of repatriation.
While in the air ...
- Wear DVT socks.
- Wear massage sandals or shoes with adjustable straps in case your feet swell.
- Get up and walk around the cabin every two hours or so.
- Take an eye mask and ear plugs and wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- Rest as much as possible. You can catch that movie on DVD later.
- Pregnant women are susceptible to dehydration, so pack a supply of vitamin-rich fresh fruit such as grapes, plums, oranges or dried apricots. Make sure you have a bottle of water with you.
- Avoid tea and coffee, which may increase the risk of DVT.
And on holiday ...
Take copies of your medical notes, insurance policy and EHIC with you, as well as a list of names and numbers of people who should be contacted in case of emergency. Obtain a list of the locations of local hospitals from the local embassy or tourist board.
Your skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, so wear a higher factor of sunscreen than you usually need.
Avoid diving and water sports while pregnant.
Above all relax and enjoy yourself on what could be your last nappy-free holiday for a while.
Updated April 2013