Can You Fly While Pregnant? What to Know Before Takeoff
Pregnancy changes so many things in your daily life—everything from your diet and exercise routine to your favorite sleeping position. It’s only natural to wonder whether it also changes how and where you can travel. So, first things first: Can you fly while pregnant? And, if so, is it safe throughout pregnancy or only during certain trimesters? Here, experts break down everything to know about flying while pregnant, including safety information and tips to make your journey a bit easier.
“As long as a pregnancy is uncomplicated, a pregnant person can fly safely,” says Sherry Ross, MD, an ob-gyn and women’s sexual health expert. But how late into your pregnancy and how far you can fly will depend on your personal circumstances.
Most emergencies in pregnancy occur in either the first or third trimester, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), so traveling during your second trimester may be the safest bet. However, there are a few circumstances that could preclude travel or make it more difficult, especially if you have a high-risk pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these include:
- Previous miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
- History of infertility
- Placental abruption, placenta previa or other placental abnormalities
- Uterine irritability or an incompetent cervix
- A twin or multiples pregnancy
- History of preterm labor or premature rupture of membranes
- Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
- History of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or blood clots
- History of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or blood clots
- Fetal growth restriction
- Severe anemia
Before booking a flight “it’s crucial to discuss your specific situation with your healthcare provider, as they can provide personalized advice based on your medical history,” says Meleen Chuang, MD, an ob-gyn and clinical associate professor at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone.
Can pregnant women fly all throughout pregnancy if they don’t have complications? Not necessarily. According to the ACOG, most pregnant people can fly domestically until 36 weeks. However, depending on your individual circumstances and pre-existing conditions, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or history of preterm labor, your doctor may recommend avoiding air travel even earlier. There are other considerations too. For example, Ashley Roman, MD, an ob-gyn with NYU Langone in New York City, recommends not flying after 20 to 24 weeks in triplet pregnancies. “It’s important to consider the risk of preterm labor and the availability of medical care at your destination when making this decision,” Chuang says. “Discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider to determine if it’s safe for you to travel.”
How late can you fly pregnant internationally?
For international flights, the cut off for flying while pregnant may be earlier—around around 28 weeks, Chuang says. But it really depends—other doctors advise avoiding international air travel between 32 to 34 weeks. Again, make sure to check in with your provider. “Your obstetrician will have their own ‘stop’ date,” Ross notes.
You’ll also want to check the entry requirements of your destinations. “Some countries may have restrictions or require additional documentation for pregnant travelers,” Chuang says. Some airlines may also have restrictions about flying while pregnant, so before you book your trip, ask a ticket agent or airline representative what those are. And don’t forget to consider how far along in your pregnancy you’ll be when it’s time to board your return flight.
Once you’ve spoken to your ob-gyn and booked a trip, you’re probably wondering what tips to know for flying while pregnant. Below, the experts share some things to keep in mind:
Stay hydrated: “Air travel has a dehydrating effect on the body since there is very little moisture in circulating cabin air," Ross explains. “When your body is dehydrated, blood thickens increasing your risk of blood clots. Since pregnancy is already a condition where blood thickens, being dehydrated further increases this risk of clotting while pregnant.” It’s important to make sure you’re staying on top of your liquids when flying during pregnancy. The best drink to sip on while traveling is water, and Ross recommends having a liter of it in your carry-on. (You can fill up a water bottle at an airport water fountain station.)
Move around the cabin: The ACOG suggests booking an aisle seat to ensure you can easily get up and stretch throughout the flight. Doing so will also help with blood circulation during your travels and decrease the risk of swelling and, more seriously, blood clots or deep vein thrombosis. Rebekah Mustaleski, CPM, a certified professional midwife and compression director at Motif Medical, suggests getting up and walking around every 45 minutes or so. Other ways to help blood circulation and swelling include doing ankle exercises, elevating your legs, wearing comfortable clothing and wearing medium pressure compression socks, Chuang adds.
Always wear your seatbelt: Even if the pilot has turned off the sign, the ACOG notes that turbulence can come on suddenly and quickly. For this reason, the org advises to keep your seatbelt on at all times when seated, ensuring the belt is placed correctly below your belly and across your hips.
Stay up to date on vaccines: Ross recommends getting your COVID and flu vaccines prior to any travel. Plus, avoid germ exposure by bringing hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes for wiping common surfaces, like your tray table, TV remote and arm rests. She also suggests washing your hands with soap and water whenever possible, following common hygiene practices (for starters, avoid touching your face!) and wearing a mask. “Probably the most effective way to prevent colds and flu during air travel is to wear a face mask on the airplane,” Ross says.
Bring healthy snacks: Not only are airport snacks notoriously overpriced, but they may not fulfill all the nutritional requirements you need during pregnancy. For healthy airplane snacks, Ross recommends packing protein bars, nuts, trail mix, whole-grain crackers, fruit, yogurt, peanut butter and granola bars in your carry-on. The ACOG also suggests avoiding snacks and drinks that produce gas, since it can expand at high altitudes and make you uncomfortable.
Inform the airline. Another way to ensure you have a comfortable flight during pregnancy is to let your airline know you’re expecting when first booking tickets. “They may be able to provide additional assistance or accommodations if needed,” Chuang says.
Most importantly, “listen to your body’s needs during the flight,” advises Chuang. Below, some more trimester-specific tips to keep in mind while flying during pregnancy.
Flying during the first trimester
As the ACOG notes, the first trimester can have a higher risk for pregnancy emergencies. Understandably, your mind might automatically turn to miscarriage. But can flying in the first trimester cause miscarriage? Rest assured that the experts say there’s no correlation. “There’s no conclusive evidence that flying during the first trimester increases the risk of miscarriage,” Chuang says. “However, it’s a good idea to discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider, especially if you have any concerns.”
If you’re flying during your first trimester, you’ll want to manage some of your symptoms, including nausea and fatigue, by staying hydrated, eating small meals frequently and getting lots of rest, she adds.
Flying during the second trimester
As mentioned above, the second trimester is the best time to fly when pregnant due to a decreased risk of complications. It’s also the time in pregnancy when you may feel more energetic and comfortable. That said, remember to still drink enough water, dress comfortably, move around during the flight and listen to your body.
Flying during the third trimester
“In the third trimester, it’s important to consider the risk of preterm labor,” Chuang says. Moreover, plan wisely. Choose destinations with appropriate medical facilities, and take frequent breaks to stretch and move around during the flight. If you’re planning to fly during the third trimester, check in with your doctor for personalized advice.
Ultimately, flying while pregnant doesn’t have to be impossible or even difficult. The most important thing to do when planning a trip is to speak with your doctor first for ways to ensure both you and baby stay healthy and safe.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
Meleen Chuang, MD, is an ob-gyn and clinical associate professor at the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone. She earned her medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook.
Rebekah Mustaleski, CPM-TN, IBCLC, is a certified professional midwife specializing in evidence-based maternity care. She co-founded Roots & Wings Midwifery in Knoxville, Tennessee. Mustaleski received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Centre College, and worked as a doula and birth photographer prior to establishing Roots & Wings.
Ashley Roman, MD, is an ob-gyn and maternal-fetal health specialist at NYU Langone Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates in New York City. She received her medical degree from Tulane University in 1998 and has been included in the "Best Doctors in America" database since 2007.
Sherry Ross, MD, is an ob-gyn, women’s sexual health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. and She-ology, The She-quel: Let’s Continue the Conversation. She earned her medical degree from New York Medical College.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Travel During Pregnancy, July 2023
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pregnant Travelers: CDC Yellow Book 2024, May 2023
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