pregnant woman holding miniature airplane

Flying during pregnancy: everything you need to know

Whether for business, personal, or a babymoon(!) lots of moms-to-be will need to use commercial flights to travel during pregnancy. Although flying with your irremovable carry-on may be nerve-racking for lots of women, cruising at 35,000 feet is for the most part totally safe during pregnancy, though as always, speaking to your healthcare provider before flying is not the worst idea.

Is it safe to fly when pregnant?

For the most part, flying during pregnancy is completely safe. However, healthcare providers will often recommend that women abstain from flying during the last weeks of pregnancy, oftentimes as early as 33 or 34 weeks. There is very little risk of any negative effect caused by the altitude or speed - instead, the prime concern is simply that you’ll go into labor and deliver on the plane - which may complicate Baby’s citizenship status if you’re on an international flight (just kidding! That's what the UN is for).

How airlines treat pregnant flying

Giving birth on a flight is probably not the way you imagined delivering baby, and “midwife” is definitely not part of most flight attendants’ job descriptions. Because of this, some airlines take steps to make sure that women flying in late pregnancy are doing so with a healthcare provider's approval.

Some commercial airlines, like Delta and Southwest, have no restrictions on any air travel for pregnant women, but they strongly advise pregnant women to contact their healthcare provider before they fly.

Many airlines require a healthcare provider's note past a certain point in pregnancy (as early as after month 7), that includes important information including their due date. Airlines will also often ask pregnant women to avoid sitting in the emergency exit row.

Keeping it cozy

As is commonplace for all things pregnancy, staying comfortable is probably the most important thing to take care of when you’re flying while pregnant. Sitting in an aisle seat is probably your best bet for the extra space, and easier access to the toilet. You should also take care to ensure that your seatbelt does not cut off any circulation to Baby. For longer flights, consider wearing compression stockings, as well as getting up and stretching periodically to help maintain your circulation.

The bottom line

If flying seems like something that may be too risky or uncomfortable for you, just don’t do it. However, there is very little indication that there is any danger in flying while pregnant, and your healthcare provider is always there as a resource if you need any convincing either way.

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie Lo
Read more
  • Roger W. Harms, M.D. "Is it safe to fly during pregnancy?" Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 2/12/2013. Web.
  • "Is it safe to fly while pregnant?" NHS. NHS Choices, 6/3/2015. Web.
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