Many women will need to fly when they are pregnant, whether for a wedding, business trip or a well- deserved relaxing 'baby-moon'. It could be your last opportunity to eat an airplane meal and watch an in-flight movie uninterrupted! Whatever your reason for flying, you may have some extra concerns or simply would like some practical tips to make your flight as relaxing as possible.
It's always worth checking with your midwife and/or doctor and informing them of your travel plans and gain their insight, but here is some information to help you on your way.
Flying during the first trimester
During your first trimester, your main concern is likely to be regarding how you will cope with morning sickness and the tiredness. You may prefer shorter flights for this reason.
Another concern may be your baby's safety in those early weeks. The NHS states that "whether you're travelling or not, the risk of miscarriage is higher in the first three months. While there's no reason why you can't travel at this time, if you have any worries discuss them with your midwife or doctor."
Flying during the second trimester
Many mums- to-be feel this is the easiest time to travel. The morning sickness has hopefully eased, the tiredness abated and energy levels are higher. You are also less likely to deliver during this trimester, which will reduce the stress levels for everyone.
I would still advise asking for a doctors 'fit to fly' letter to take anyway, as this avoids any awkward conversations with airline staff, and also gives you some peace of mind.
Don't forget to pack your medical records in your hand luggage. Just in case...
Flying during the third trimester
This is where most of the restrictions come in.
Airlines rules do vary, so always check with your airline first.
For example, both Emirates and British Airways restrict travel after the 36th week, and if you are carrying twins, triplets then this is reduced to the 32nd week. However, Emirates require a letter, once you enter your 29th week of pregnancy, from your doctor stating you are healthy, fit to fly and that they see no reason why you cannot travel; whereas British Airways, require this letter as you enter your 28th week.
Bear in mind these dates include the outbound section of your journey too. Also some countries restrict or limit entry for non-national pregnant women. Malaysia is one of these that restrict after six months. Confusing and conflicting advice, so always check with your airline so you are not stranded at an airport.
Whichever stage of pregnancy you travel in, make sure you take the appropriate travel insurance. Be aware that some regard pregnancy as a medical condition whereas others do not.
Read the small print, as if you have an IVF pregnancy, not all insurance agencies cover.
Some useful Do and Don'ts
Do take your medical records.
Do consider wearing compression socks.
Do be comfortable and wear loose clothes.
Do consider taking a maternity pillow. It really helped me on my seven hour flight and was worth stuffing into my hand luggage.
Do drink lots of water.
Do wear slip on shoes in case your feet swell.
Do try to sit within a few rows of the on-board toilets for those urgent dashes.
Do read the in-flight health advice and move around to keep the blood flowing.
Don't be shy, if you need one, ask for a seat belt extender.
Don't expect to sit an emergency exit row as it against airline safety policy if you are pregnant.
Don't lift heavy bags, so pack lightly in case there is no one to assist. Many airlines have policies regarding health and safety for their own staff, and I personally can account for a major back operation after being helpful and lifting hand luggage into an overhead locker.
For more useful information on flying with babies and toddlers see http://www.flyingwithababy.com