Whether you're newly pregnant or planning a babymoon right before welcoming your new bundle of joy, here's what expectant parents need to know about airline travel during each trimester.

By Melissa Mills
April 13, 2021
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Pregnant with her second child and due this summer, Meghan Markle wasn't cleared to fly back to the U.K. for Prince Philip's funeral. The news has expectant parents questioning: Can you fly when pregnant? And how safe is airline travel for pregnant people during the pandemic?

An image of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
Credit: Getty Images.

While it's mostly OK to travel right up until the end of your pregnancy, there are some precautions to take depending on when you decide to book a trip and how high risk your pregnancy is. Here's what you need to know before your next vacation.

Pregnancy and Flying: Your Trimester by Trimester Guide

As a general rule of thumb, most airlines will allow pregnant people to fly right up until week 36 of pregnancy, but you should absolutely do your research before booking your flight to check restrictions. You'll also want to consult with your OB-GYN or midwife before traveling—especially if you're at a higher risk for complications during pregnancy.

Before you travel

While you may be accustomed to planning a vacation on a whim or only packing your usually necessities, there's one extra thing you should consider doing before booking a flight during your pregnancy: Opt for the travel insurance.

Should travel restrictions change, your health care provider recommend you stay home, or if you experience any concerning symptoms—like bleeding, abdominal pain, swelling, headaches, vision changes, or decreased fetal movement—you'll want to postpone or cancel your plans and see your doctor as soon as possible.

According to the ACOG, travel is not recommended for pregnant people with certain complications like preeclampsia, premature rupture of membranes (PROM), or who are at risk of preterm labor.

First trimester

Flying earlier on in a pregnancy is actually considered pretty safe. And, no, metal detectors won't harm your fetus.

"Pregnant women can observe the same basic precautions for air travel as the general public," Raul Artal, M.D., former vice chairman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) committee on obstetric practice, previously told Parents.

One thing pregnant air travelers should take extra precautions to avoid at any trimester? Blood clots, which pregnant people are 7 times more likely to develop—especially during long flights. To help minimize your risk, you can book an aisle seat, walk around every so often, and wiggle your legs and toes while seated.

And since morning sickness and fatigue might be your biggest first trimester complaints, you may want to check with your health care provider about bringing anti-nausea medicine with you.

Second trimester

According to the ACOG, "The best time to travel is mid-pregnancy (14 to 28 weeks). During these weeks, your energy has returned, morning sickness is improved or gone, and you are still able to get around easily. After 28 weeks, it may be harder to move around or sit for a long time."

If you're flying during your second trimester, it's a good idea to stay hydrated, think about wearing support stockings to avoid clotting on long flights, and make sure you've done your research on hospitals located near your destination should an emergency arise.

Carrying twins or more? Your health care provider might recommend you stop traveling after 20 weeks.

Third trimester

How late in pregnancy can you fly? If you're relatively healthy—and not at risk of complications like preterm labor, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or placenta previa—then you're usually OK to travel up until 36 weeks, though some OB-GYNs may prefer you stay closer to home near the end should you encounter any complications or in case your baby comes sooner than expected.

High-risk patients—and especially those with pregnancy-induced hypertension, diabetes, sickle-cell disease—may be advised not to fly after 24 weeks—or not at all.

Check with your doctor before traveling at the end of your pregnancy.

Flying During COVID-19

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic does pose more risks for pregnant people. And though COVID-19 could impact pregnant people and fetuses differently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that they're generally at a higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and intensive care unit (ICU) admission. Because of this, you'll want to limit your exposure and follow CDC travel recommendations to stay healthy.

That said, the CDC has put out new guidance for traveling if you're fully vaccinated (aka two weeks after your last shot). While travel is mostly OK, you'll definitely want to talk to your health care provider about your specific situation, what's safe and what's not, and whether or not you should get the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant.