I’m not going to lie. Travelling while pregnant is definitely quite different compared to what I’m used to. I’ve been on a few trips since being pregnant and have flown in every single trimester, taking both long-haul flights as well as shorter domestic trips. Some flights were a lot more challenging than others and I definitely learnt a few lessons along the way! Since I’ve now done all the travel I’ll be doing this pregnancy and am staying put now until the baby arrives, I wanted to share my best tips for flying while pregnant, hopefully to help you pregnant mamas have a better flight!
Flying while pregnant: 11 of my best tips
1. Timing is everything
You can travel in all trimesters but the second trimester is the most comfortable time to take a trip. You’re (hopefully) beyond feeling like you need to throw up every half hour and you’re not big and uncomfortable yet. I generally felt pretty much like my normal self in the second trimester, which is why I think it’s the perfect time to travel.
Also be aware that the later you leave it, the more complicated flying can be. After 28 weeks, most airlines require you to carry a note from your healthcare provider certifying that it’s safe for you to fly and that your pregnancy is complication-free. It’s also virtually impossible to find travel insurance that will cover pregnancy past 28 weeks which means that if you had to cancel your flight for whatever reason, you wouldn’t be covered.
2. You can deny x-ray screening at the airport
Even though stepping through the full-body x-ray scanners at airport security is deemed to be safe, know that you can request an alternative body pat-down instead. The amount of radiation that the x-ray machines emit is very, very low (you will be exposed to more radiation up in the air than when you step through the machine), but if you want to be extra cautious, you do have options.
I requested a pat-down when I was going through airport security at San-Francisco as they were using the big full-body scanners instead of the metal detectors. I knew was exposing myself to a lot of radiation through all the flying I was doing so didn’t want to add any extra if I didn’t have to.
3. Departure times really do matter
In pregnancy (and especially in the first trimester), sleep is EVERYTHING. You feel like you just can’t get enough of it. I made the mistake of booking an early morning flight up to Sydney when I was seven weeks pregnant, which had me at the airport before the crack of dawn. Oh my, what a mistake that was. It cut my sleep short by hours and I felt like the walking dead all day. I could barely keep my eyes open and exploring the city felt like the very last thing I wanted to do.
When you’re booking your flights, be kind to yourself and book a later departure time. Give yourself the chance to have a normal, uninterrupted sleep the night before. When you’re pregnant, you really do need all the sleep you can get. Everything else comes second!
4. Get up regularly
When I was chatting to my doctor about flying while pregnant, she told me to make sure I was getting up and moving around the plane every two hours. Pregnant women are at greater risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is when blood clots develop in your body. Compression socks are also a really good idea.
On my long-haul flight, I’d been worried that I’d fall asleep and therefore wouldn’t wake up to move around the plane enough. Actually though, I found it IMPOSSIBLE to get any rest whatsoever on the 15-hour flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles. I was so uncomfortable that I didn’t catch a wink of sleep and actually found myself getting up out of my seat to stretch and move constantly. You might be different though so it might pay to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to get up regularly.
5. Ask for help
I’d like to think of myself as a pretty capable, independent traveller. I can usually quite confidently deal with my luggage on my own. If you’re flying while pregnant though, don’t be afraid to ask someone around you for help if you need it. I found that I had to do this when I was travelling solo back from America. I knew that lifting my carry-on up into the overhead locker and dragging my heavy luggage off the carousel was a bad idea so I just politely asked someone if they wouldn’t mind helping me. Look after yourself and don’t be afraid to ask.
6. Pack ALL the snacks
It’s no secret that pregnancy makes you ravenous. Travel days, however, can sometimes mean that you don’t eat quite as regularly as you normally would. This spells disaster for a pregnant woman! I learnt my lesson the hard way when I was flying interstate at in early pregnancy. I packed a couple of snacks but nowhere near enough to last me. It’s safe to say that come the in-flight service, I was ravenous (and very nauseous by that stage). If I allowed myself to get hungry at all in my first trimester, I’d feel so sick all day long, even after I ate. Needless to say, I was very queasy that day!
The nausea disappeared in my second and third trimesters but I did still feel hungry all the time. I wanted to make sure that I was eating well though so instead of buying snacks on the plane or at the airport, I’d always bring all my own with me. My go-to healthy travel snacks were punnets of blueberries, carrot sticks, granola bars and trail mix. I’d definitely recommend packing a pregnancy survival snack box to save you when you just can’t get your hands on food fast enough!
7. Re-think sleeping medication
You have to be so careful with what medication you take during pregnancy so if you’re someone who usually takes something to help you sleep on a plane, make sure you check that it’s safe beforehand. I personally usually take a strong painkiller to help make me drowsy and minimise any aches and pains so I can drift off to sleep on the plane. Obviously, I had to forgo this while pregnant. While I definitely couldn’t get the sleep I usually would, I knew my baby was safe and unaffected which is the only thing that mattered.
8. Stay hydrated
Flying is dehydrating for everybody but it’s even more important to stay hydrated if your flying while pregnant. During pregnancy, your body needs a lot more water than usual – to maintain amniotic fluid, build new tissue, produce more blood volume and to carry nutrients to your baby. On all the flights I took during my pregnancy, I had an unquenchable thirst! If you’re flying a budget airline, remember that you’ll have to pay for drinks so you’ll save quite a bit of money if you bring them on board yourself. On our babymoon, I’m pretty sure I downed about two litres of water on the 3.5 hr flight!
9. Be careful about airline food
When you’re pregnant, you obviously want to make sure that all the food you eat is super fresh and high quality, so airline food can be a bit of a worry. While I’ve never been sick from airline food in all the years I’ve been travelling, you do hear it happening to people all the time. If you want to stay on the safe side. maybe don’t risk the salads, cut fruit or pre-made sandwiches and make sure the meal is piping hot.
10. Comfort is key
Let’s be real. Unless you can afford a business class ticket, flying is uncomfortable at the best of times, let alone when you’re growing a new human. Whether you’re feeling claustrophobic and nauseous in the first trimester or swollen and achy later on, plane travel is that extra bit harder. You really want to do everything you can to make yourself as comfortable as possible on the flight.
On long-haul flights, I made sure to book a seat with extra leg-room so I could stretch out and not feel as cramped. I also dressed in the comfiest, stretchiest clothes I could find in my wardrobe – oversized jumpers and tights. I also asked the air hostess for an extra pillow and blanket to create a little padded nest around me. Anything you can do to make yourself more comfortable, do it!
11. Pick your seat carefully
Where you sit on the plane really matters when you’re pregnant. Ideally, you want to pick a seat that makes it easy for you to get up and down easily. If you’ve been feeling nauseous, make sure you book a seat close to the toilets in case you need to make an emergency dash there. You’ll also be getting up and down a lot more frequently than usual so think about booking an aisle seat to make it easier.
Looking to read more about my pregnancy journey? You might like to read:
Or counting down to your next flight? Read more flying tips here:
- 9 Carry-On Essentials You Should Pack for Every Flight
- Jet Lag: 9 Things You’re Doing Completely Wrong
- How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight in 25 Tips
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Have any other tips about flying while pregnant? I’d love to hear them in the comments!