Flying while pregnant:
What you should know about Airline Policies
There's no reason to be afraid of flying while you're pregnant. Flying while pregnant is usually considered safe, and under normal circumstances it doesn't harm the baby. It does require a little more preparation though, and there are some things you should keep in mind when planning your trip. By preparing yourself you can avoid unpleasant surprises and last-minute stress at the airport - and we all know stress is the last thing you need while pregnant. This article breaks down everything you need to take into consideration about airline policies for pregnant women.
The medical world generally considers flying while pregnant to be safe if the pregnancy is straightforward. The safest time to fly is up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. After this, it's generally recommended to stay at home, as you can go into labor at any time. If you're expecting twins, the safest time to fly is before 32 weeks.
Timing is important, and the second trimester (between week 14 and 28) is seen as the best period for traveling. The first semester (up until 12 weeks) is considered less optimal, because of morning sickness and potential miscarriage. In the third trimester (after 28 weeks) the risk of preterm labor increases.
Both pregnancy and long-haul flights are associated with an increased risk of developing blood clots. This doesn't mean you can't fly, but doctors often recommend taking some precautions to be on the safe side. Precautionary measures include wearing compression stockings, moving and stretching your legs regularly, and wearing loose and comfortable clothing.
If there are complications during your pregnancy, consulting a specialist is a must. In fact, even if your pregnancy is straightforward, it's a good idea to consult your doctor before taking off.
Every airline has its own policy for pregnant flyers, and policies vary widely. This means it's always necessary to contact your airline directly and check their specific rules. But to give you a general idea, the most common policies are summarized here.
- A few airlines don't have any restrictions on flying at all.
- The majority of airlines don't have any restrictions until at least 28 weeks into pregnancy.
- After 28 weeks some airlines require a medical certificate.
- Many airlines don't allow pregnant women on board after 36 weeks of pregnancy.
- Other airlines still allow pregnant women to fly up until 7 days before their due date.
- Some airlines don't allow women on board before 7 days after giving birth.
If your airline demands a medical certificate, this usually means you have to provide a note from your doctor that states the due date and confirms it's safe to fly. The note must often be dated within 72 hours prior to departure, so you should plan this carefully.
The largest airlines - Pregnancy Policy
To get you started, these are the pregnancy policies of the largest airlines in the United States.
A doctor's certificate stating that you're fit to fly is required within 4 weeks of the due date for American Airlines. On short domestic flights, you're not allowed to travel 7 days before and after the delivery date, unless you have special clearance. On international flights you need special clearance within 4 weeks of the due date, and 7 days after delivery.
Delta Air Lines doesn't impose any restrictions on flying while pregnant and doesn't require a medical certificate for you to travel.
Pregnancy Policy of Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines doesn't impose any restrictions on pregnant passengers but advises them to consult with their physicians and recommends against air travel from 38 weeks of pregnancy. In some cases, pregnant women may be asked not to sit in the emergency exit row.
Up until week 36 of the pregnancy, United Airlines allows pregnant women to fly without medical documentation. After week 36, a doctor's certificate must be provided, dated within 72 hours prior to departure.
As you can see, airline policies are all different. When planning a trip while pregnant, it's important to check up on your airlines' rules and time your trip right. But that's no reason to feel discouraged. With the right timing and a few extra precautions there are no obstacles to flying, and there's no reason you can't enjoy a getaway before your little one arrives into your life. Book your airline tickets now.