Facing into the home stretch of your pregnancy and wondering whether or not it is too late to take a little summer holiday abroad?
Rest assure that the vast majority of experts now agree that as long as you are having a safe and healthy pregnancy, there is no reason why you can't fly in your third trimester – as long as you do it responsibly and with the approval of your doctor or midwife – and airline.
Note that if you have any sort of pregnancy complications, have had any contractions, are at risk for pre-term labour or have a history of delivering early, your doctor may recommend that you not fly in the later weeks of pregnancy. If you are pregnant with multiples, you may want to hold off too.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
Talk to your doctor first
Your doctor knows your history and can advise you on whether it is safe for you to travel or not. He or she will also be able to advice you on possible vaccines needed for your destination, and whether or not you can get these when you are pregnant.
Depending on how far along you are, you might need to ask your doctor to write you a "fit to fly" note confirming how many weeks pregnant you are and that you are having a normal, healthy pregnancy – to bring along in case airline staff ask you at check in or boarding. This might especially be the case for women who have a rather large bump, and you might need to show proof of how many weeks pregnant you are.
Look after yourself
First of all, make sure you feel well enough to travel and take care of yourself in every way possible.
Many healthcare experts will remind you that long-distance travel does carry a small risk of thrombosis (blood clots) in pregnant women. If you fly, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and do the recommended calf exercises.
You can also buy a pair of support stockings in the pharmacy over the counter, which will reduce leg swelling.
Destination and insurance
Before you travel, think about your destination. Could you get medical help if you needed it? Are any vaccinations needed which might be harmful to the pregnancy?
Make sure your travel insurance is up to date and covers every eventuality and also – for travel in the third trimester, maybe avoid travelling to places you really can't imagine yourself giving birth.
Also, if you are flying to the US, make sure you double-check with your insurance company, as you may not be covered for medical costs if you should go into labour and deliver in a hospital while there.
Rules by some of the main airlines
The rules on how far into your third trimester you are allowed to fly varies from airline to airline, and it is always advised to get in touch with them directly just to make sure before you book anything. However, as a general rule, this is what their websites state:
Ryanair: Expectant mothers are free to fly up to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Once an uncomplicated pregnancy reaches its 28th week, Ryanair requires expectant mothers to carry a “fit to fly” letter (downloadable on ryanair.com), completed by their midwife or doctor.
For an uncomplicated single pregnancy, travel is not permitted after week 36, while for an uncomplicated multiple pregnancy, travel is not allowed after week 32.
Aer Lingus: With Aer Lingus, the destination matters when it comes to how far into your third trimester they will let you board their flights.
For flights between Ireland and the UK, pregnant women can travel up to week 32 with written permission from a doctor. To travel between weeks 32-35, the woman must bring an Expectant Mother Travel Advice form (downloadable from aerlingus.com), completed by their medical professional. Travel is not permitted after week 36 on this route.
For all other Aer Lingus routes, women can travel up to week 28 of the pregnancy with written permission from a doctor/midwife. Women who are 28-33 weeks’ pregnant must complete and bring an Expectant Mother Travel Advice form, while those over 34 weeks pregnant are not permitted to travel.
Norwegian Air: You can fly up until 2 weeks before your due-date with certain restrictions.
You can fly up to 4 weeks before your due date without a medical certificate. Between 4 to 2 weeks before due date your flight cannot be longer than 4 hours and they will require a medical certificate to confirm that you're fit to fly.
If you're travelling on a return flight, please make sure the certificate covers you for the whole period. Please keep this certificate available in your hand luggage at all times during your flight/s. Once you are less than two weeks from your due date, Norwegian Air will not let you onboard their flights, for "you and your baby's safety.
Virgin Atlantic: As long as you haven’t experienced any complications during your pregnancy, you can fly until your 28th week without needing to tell us. Beyond the 28th week, you’ll need to take note of the guidelines below.
If you're expecting one baby and want to travel between your 28th and 36th weeks, we’ll need you to travel with a certificate from your doctor. The certificate should state that you have had no complications and your estimated delivery date. We don’t need to see this in advance, but it might be asked for at the airport or onboard. Travel may be delayed or denied if you do not have this if asked.
It's important to remember to include your return travel within these dates.
After your 36th week, you mustn't fly unless there are mitigating circumstances - which you can find listed below.
If you're expecting more than one baby and want to travel between your 28th and 32nd weeks, again you'll need to travel with a doctor's certificate stating you've had no complications and your estimated delivery date. Travel may be delayed or denied if you don't have your certificate available if asked.
You mustn't fly after the end of your 32nd week. Please do remember to include your return travel date in this time frame.
Travelling after the cut-off date
For travel after the 36th week for single pregnancies, or after the 32nd week for multiple pregnancies, we can only carry you for urgent medical or compassionate reasons, and only on approval from our medical advisors.