Three months pregnant in Nepal
Yes! If you're reading this in the early hours, unable to sleep due to worrying about an imminent trip, that's the assurance you need. I know, because despite travelling all over the world during my first pregnancy four years ago - Cook Islands, Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica, Nepal - doubt crept in for some reason (being older? knowing I have less years left to conceive if anything went wrong?) during my second (current) pregnancy and I found myself Googling 'how safe is it to fly at seven months' late one night before a recent trip to Chicago. What I came across was a mass of confusing information and conflicting advice on forums, so I thought it would make a good blog post.
Of course there are steps you can take to ensure you and baby are as safe as possible and enjoy the journey rather than simply survive it, so here's everything I've learnt about flying pregnant over the last couple of child-rearing years while working as a travel writer, which will hopefully give you confidence if you're having flying jitters and some peace of mind too.
1. Go for a health check It's obvious, but make sure you're fit and healthy before you fly. The day before I flew to Chicago (via New York) at seven months I booked an appointment with my doctor and had my blood pressure taken. It was normal, but he advised me to buy some DVT socks for the journey, which I dutifully changed into before take off, and to walk around the plane as much as possible - I found this harder, because chain-watching new films while cabin crew brought me drinks gave me no incentive to get out of my seat.
2. Make sure you have insurance Not just basic travel insurance, but insurance that covers you for pregnancy emergencies, such as giving birth prematurely in a foreign country, C-Sections, changed flights. I have year-round travel insurance with NatWest and they have assured me I'd be covered in the event of an early birth, including medical care and a return flight, which really is good to know when you're travelling to a country like the USA where medical bills can run into six figures.
3. Only fly if you really have to after seven months My doctor advises that the cut-off period for flying is seven months (including the seventh month). This doesn't mean you can't fly at eight months, but only if it's really necessary (such as flying home to give birth). My midwife also confirmed this, saying she has no problem with women going away in the second trimester, particularly for a relaxing holiday. Bear in mind that if you travel too close to the birth date (32 weeks plus) you're going to be worried about a premature birth and therefore stressed, uncomfortable flying long-haul as your bump will be big and most likely really tired.
4. Drink plenty of water You're probably having to visit the toilet more than usual anyway if you're pregnant, so no doubt being told to drink more water isn't welcome advice. However, airplane cabins are notoriously dehydrating and it's more important than ever to keep hydrated when you're pregnant as your kidneys are working over time, so buy at least a two-litre bottle before you board (the tiny cups of water you're given on a flight aren't enough) and make sure you sip it.
5. Buy a lounge pass You're probably like me and can't afford First or even Premium Economy, but that doesn't mean you can't treat yourself to a lounge pass. I did this through Holiday Extras prior to flying long-haul at five, six and seven months' pregnant and it made the start of the journey very relaxing. It doesn't cost much (around £14-19 depending on the airport) and means that rather than wandering around duty-free for two hours (never good with leg and/or back ache) you can sink into a comfy seat, read, get some juice and snacks and wait for your boarding call before strolling to the gate.
Six months pregnant in Antigua
6. Check what your airline requires All airlines have different rules about pregnant flyers. My recent Chicago flight was with Virgin Atlantic, which (providing you haven't had any complications in your pregnancy and are only having one baby) only needs a downloadable medical form filled out by your doctor after 28 weeks. Virgin advises that you don't fly at all after your 36th week unless there are mitigating circumstances. British Airways says you can't fly after the end of your 36th week (if you're pregnant with one baby) or the end of your 32nd week (if you're pregnant with more than one). It requires a letter from your doctor or midwife after 28 weeks, confirming your due date and that you haven't had any complications during pregnancy.
7. Avoid lengthy transfers I actually cancelled a trip to the Maldives (heart-breaking, I'll remind my child of this frequently when it's older) at seven months because it involved a four-hour stop-over in Doha and staying at a resort more than a two-hour seaplane journey from the nearest hospital. As my first child was born Usain Bolt-style in three-and-a-half hours, the thought of giving birth prematurely on a remote sand bar with no help didn't hold any appeal, so I cancelled. In short, it's best to fly direct, find out where your nearest medical help would be and how you'd get there, just as a precaution.
8. Relax (and enjoy being waited on for once) It's not very often that we get to sit down for a few hours, read, watch films, have drinks and snacks brought to us while our phones are (shock) off - enjoy it! I'm biased because I love flying but even if you're not a big fan, when you're pregnant that peaceful time away from absolutely everything can actually be really relaxing. And if you still can't relax, think about the stats for a second: more than two billion people fly per year on more than 38 million flights and hundreds of thousands of them are pregnant women and they're fine. You will be too.