Top tips for flying while pregnant

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Flying while pregnant doesn’t have to be scary, as long as you’re prepared and feel comfortable enough to travel. There are a number of things you can do to make traveling safe and comfortable, and we’ll walk you through our best tips to do just that. 

There are number of things to keep in mind if your pregnant and plan to fly. (Image by Orbon Alija / Getty Images)

Flying while pregnant

1. Before you go

If you’re pregnant, it’s always wise to check with your doctor before flying, this becomes more true the further along you are. Your doctor is already intimately familiar with your pregnancy and can make the best recommendations for you.

For reassurance, it’s also a good idea to bring important phone numbers, like that of your OBGYN, midwife, family members, etc., and proof of insurance. You should also gather a list of your medications.

2. Safety and restrictions

Again, you should consult your doctor before deciding to fly if you’re pregnant. Just know, though, that generally speaking, flying is safe to do while pregnant. Your doctor will give you a recommendation for when you’re too pregnant to fly, but usually, you can fly up to 36 weeks into your pregnancy — as long as you haven’t been experiencing any issues. 

Keep in mind that each airline has a policy for flying while pregnant, though, and these policies are designed for your safety. See the table below for what these policies look like.

Alaska AirlinesNo policy.
AllegiantRecommended to check with a doctor before flying.
American AirlinesIf your due date is within four weeks of your flight, you must provide a doctor’s certificate stating that you’ve been recently examined and you’re fit to fly.
DeltaNo policy.
FrontierAs of the 36th week of pregnancy, the pregnant passenger may travel by providing a medical certificate.
HawaiianIf in the ninth month of pregnancy, you must have been examined by your obstetrician within 48 hours of your departure date and provide the airline with a written certification from your obstetrician stating that you are medically fit to travel.
Jet BlueIf you’re expecting to deliver within seven days, you’re not allowed to travel on JetBlue, unless you present documentation from your doctor dated within 72 hours of departure.
SouthwestRecommended against air travel beginning at the 38th week of pregnancy. Recommended to not sit in emergency exit row.
SpiritIn the eighth month of pregnancy and beyond, it’s recommended to get a doctor’s clearance to fly.
Sun CountryPersons who are expecting delivery within seven days may be refused transportation unless airline is provided a doctor’s certificate dated within 72 hours prior to departure stating the doctor has examined and found the passenger to be physically fit for travel.
UnitedIn the 36th week or after, you’ll need an obstetrician’s certificate — the original and two copies — stating that you’re fit for air travel. The certificate must be dated within 72 hours of your flight departure. Please give the original certificate to one of our representatives at check-in. The remaining copies are for reference during air travel.

3. Packing the necessities

If you’re flying while pregnant, you’ll want to remember to pack any items you regularly use to keep you comfortable and healthy.

Bring along anything you need for morning sickness, as well as your medications, and vitamins. Keep these in your carry-on so you always have them handy and just in case your checked luggage goes missing. 

Also bring along things that keep you comfortable, like a neck pillow, cover-up, slippers or compression socks. It’s always important to keep yourself comfortable while traveling and even more so while pregnant.

Don’t forget snacks and water, too. Food will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and could fend off nausea. Plus, staying hydrated is of utmost importance when you’re pregnant and it can be very difficult to stay hydrated in the dry plane air.

Lastly, if you’re further along in your pregnancy, it could be helpful to carry copies of medical records and your birth plan (if you have one), just in case you go into labor while traveling. If you’ve planned to have something special with you during labor, bring that too! Some women plan out a particular playlist or want a certain sentimental item with them, like a photo of a loved one.

4. Choosing the right seat

Staying comfortable is a top priority when you’re pregnant, so obviously when in the air, a wider seat with more legroom is ideal.  And if you can get a lie-flat seat, even better!

If business or first class is out of your budget, consider premium economy or extra-legroom economy seats.  Your legs might be swollen from fluid retention, so being able to stretch them out is important. This is a great opportunity to lean on your travel credit card. You might be able to score an upgraded seat for a lower cost or even by cashing in your points — and using your points and miles for a premium seat is how you’ll get the most value from your rewards. Some cards also grant you access to airline elite status, which can get you a free upgrade as well.

If none of that works out for you, though, your next best bet is an aisle seat. This is a good option for a few reasons. For one, you’ll have easier access to the bathroom, which you’ll probably be grateful for. The aisle seat will also make it a little easier to stretch your legs, whether it’s sticking them into the aisle for a stretch (but don’t leave them there and block the way!) or allowing you the ease of getting up to move around.

With all that said, though, and keeping COVID-19 in mind, Dr. Zaher Merhi, OB/GYN and founder of Rejuvenating Fertility Center, actually recommends the window seat. “Choose a window seat in order to stay as far as possible from other passengers. Get up only if you REALLY have to. I recommend using the bathroom just before you go onboard,” said Dr. Merhi. 

5. Dealing with nausea

If you’re prone to morning sickness, it’s especially important to bring along any remedies you normally use to combat your nausea, because throwing up on a plane is not a fun experience!

Some women use special morning sickness lollipops, ginger candies, or saltine crackers — but bring whatever works best for you. Also make sure you have a baggie available if it’s a real problem, in case you can’t make it to the bathroom in time.

Also, be aware of any smells that trigger your nausea and vomiting, because they can be hard to avoid on a plane. The smell of coffee, for example, is a trigger for many women.

If you’re prone to motion sickness or sensitive to the acceleration or deceleration of the plane, morning sickness may make it worse, so check with your doctor to see if there’s anything you can take to combat this feeling.

6. Protecting yourself and the baby while abroad

COVID-19 is a big concern now, so it would be wise to avoid travel if you can. That being said, if you must travel, clear it with your doctor first and then follow CDC guidelines for flying. Your health and your baby’s health is of the utmost importance during this pandemic, so if you feel any doubt about traveling, try to avoid it.

If you’re going to fly, though, follow these best practices, like wearing a mask at all times, washing your hands often and flying on an airline that blocks middle seats. In general, airlines are sanitizing the planes between each flight, and many are also offering sanitary wipes as you enter so you can wipe down your seat further. Take advantage of all of this so your area is clean. Dr. Merhi said not to forget the seat-back tray and TV screen.  

“Use disposable gloves when touching the bins at the airport while going through security and X-ray machine,” said Dr. Merh, adding that it’s important to not touch anything if you can avoid it, and make sure to use hand sanitizer. 

And while most airlines are largely offering hassle-free flight changes right now, just double-check the rebooking and cancellation policies before you purchase your flight. You’ll want to know what your options are should you change your mind and decide not to fly.

7. Additional Preparations

Planning your trip with a budget in mind can take some stress off your shoulders, which can ultimately make for a more pleasant experience. One of the best things you can do is rely on a cash-back credit card when paying for a trip. They function like any old card but they’ll earn you cash back that you can use toward things for baby!

With these cards, the most common expenses will earn cash back, including the flights and accommodations you’ve purchased. The card will also earn money back on pregnancy-related expenses like travel medical insurance, medical treatment while traveling, and prescriptions, should the need arise. 

Finally, you can redeem your cash back, hotel points or airline miles to help cover the cost of a trip — you could even use cash back to “erase” baby-related purchased from your credit card statement.

Bottom Line

Women all over the world fly while pregant, but it’s wise to check with your doctor before taking off on a trip. Make sure to choose the right seat, bring snacks, and be prepared just in case the unexpected happens when travling — these could save you from a lot of stress!

Featured image by Orbon Alija / Getty Images.

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