Flying while pregnant

During a healthy pregnancy, it’s generally safe to fly until 36 weeks. Most airlines in the United States allow pregnant women to fly domestically in their third trimester before the 36th week. Some international flights restrict travel after 28 weeks.

Flying isn’t usually recommended if you have a pregnancy complication, including:

Always check with your doctor before flying during pregnancy to confirm it’s safe for you.

Certain airlines may also require a medical certificate from a doctor during the last month of pregnancy. Call the airline ahead of time to find out their policy and what documents you may need.

What are the policies on different airlines?

Each airline has a slightly different policy for plane travel during the third trimester of pregnancy. For that reason, it’s important to call the airline or check their website for their guidelines before your trip.

For example, Delta Airlines currently has no restrictions on flying during pregnancy and doesn’t require a medical certificate. But American Airlines requires a doctor’s certificate if your due date is within four weeks of your flight. It must state that you’ve been recently examined and are cleared to fly.

Airlines may also have different requirements if you’re carrying more than one baby. The policy held by British Airways states that women carrying one baby can’t travel beyond the end of the 36th week, and women carrying more than one baby can’t travel after the end of the 32nd week.

Even if your airline doesn’t require a medical certificate to travel, it’s a smart idea to ask your healthcare provider for one anyway, regardless of how far along you are.

Although it’s not always clear if it’s legal or not for gate agents to ask how far along in your pregnancy you are, airlines have denied pregnant women from boarding in the past. Having a note from your doctor or midwife could ease your mind. That way, you won’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll be allowed on the plane.

Policies by airline

Below are the policies for some of the major airlines around the world, but you should always confirm an airline’s policy on their website or over the phone before booking travel. Policies may change at any time and speaking with the airline directly is the best way to find out their current policy.

AirlineAble to flyUnable to flyDoctor’s note required
Air ChinaSingle baby: 1-35 weeks, or more than 4 weeks from expected due date; Multiple babies: 4 weeks or more from expected delivery dateSingle baby: 36 weeks and over; Multiple babies: 4 or less weeks from expected delivery dateNo
AirFranceThroughout entire pregnancyNot applicableNot required
American AirlinesUp to 7 days of expected delivery date7 or less days from expected delivery dateWithin 4 weeks of expected delivery date
Asiana Airlines1-36 weeksSingle: 37+ weeks; Multiple: 33+ weeks32-36 weeks
British AirwaysSingle: 1-36 weeks; Multiple: 1-32 weeksSingle: 37+ weeks; Multiple: 33+ weeksRecommended but not required
Cathay PacificSingle: 1-35 weeks; Multiple: 1-31 weeksSingle: 36+ weeks; Multiple: 32+ weeks28+ weeks
Delta AirlinesThroughout entire pregnancyNot applicableNot required
EmiratesSingle: 1-35 weeks; Multiple: 1-31 weeksSingle: 36+ weeks unless cleared by Emirates Medical Services; Multiple: 32+ weeks unless cleared by Emirates Medical Services29+ weeks
Egypt AirThroughout entire pregnancyNot applicableWithin 4 weeks of expected delivery or for women carrying multiple babies or with known pregnancy complications
LufthansaSingle: 1-35 weeks, or within 4 weeks of expected delivery date; Multiple: 1-28 weeks, or within 4 weeks of expected delivery dateSingle: 36+ weeks unless given medical clearance; Multiple: 29+ weeks unless given medical clearanceRecommended after 28 weeks; required after 36 weeks for singles and after 29 weeks for multiples
QantasSingle baby and flight under 4 hours: 1-40 weeks; Single, baby and flight 4+ hours: 1-35 weeks; Multiple babies and flight under 4 hours: 1-35 weeks; Multiple babies and flight 4+ hours: 1-31 weeksSingle baby and flight under 4 hours: 41+ weeks; Single baby and flight 4+ hours: 36+ weeks; Multiple babies and flight under 4 hours: 36+ weeks; Multiple babies and flight 4+ hours: 32+ weeksFor travel after 28 weeks
RyanairSingle: 1-35 weeks; Multiple: 1-31 weeksSingle: 36+ weeks; Multiple: 32+ weeksFor travel at or after 28 weeks
Singapore AirlinesSingle: 1-36 weeks; Multiple: 1-32 weeksSingle: 37+ weeks; Multiple: 33+ weeksSingle: 29-36 weeks; Multiple: 29-32 weeks
Thai AirFlights under 4 hours: 1-35 weeks; Flights 4+ hours: 1-33 weeksSingle: 36+ weeks for flights under 4 hours and 34+ weeks for flights 4+ hours; Medical approval needed for women carrying multiples28+ weeks and if you’re carrying multiples
Turkish Airlines1-27 weeksSingle: 36+ weeks; Multiple: 32+ weeks28+ weeks

Long-distance travel during pregnancy

The guidelines for long-distance travel during pregnancy are typically the same for domestic or local flights. But for international flights, certain airlines may have some restrictions for women in their third trimester.

For example, American Airlines requires clearance from the airline’s special coordinator if you’re flying internationally within four weeks of your due date, or seven days before or after your delivery. They’ll confirm that you’ve been examined by a doctor within the last 48 hours before your flight and are cleared to fly.

If you’re planning to travel a long distance or internationally during pregnancy, the second trimester is the ideal time to do so.

DVT, flying, and pregnancy

Pregnant women are at increased risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Flying also increases risk for DVT.

To prevent DVT while flying, it’s important to drink lots of water and other fluids throughout your flight. You should also wear loose-fitting clothing and get up to walk and stretch at regular intervals on the plane. At a minimum, get up to walk at least every two hours. You may also consider wearing compression stockings to prevent swelling in your feet and lower legs.

Are metal detectors safe during pregnancy?

Airport X-rays and advanced imaging technology are generally considered safe for all passengers, including pregnant women.

If you’re concerned, you request a pat-down screening instead of walking through a metal detector. Tell the officer at airport security you’re pregnant and are opting for a pat-down. A female security officer will inform you of the process and perform the screening.

Tips for safe travel during pregnancy

If you’re flying during pregnancy, follow these tips to stay safe and healthy:

  • dress comfortably in loose clothing and flat shoes
  • book an aisle seat so you can stretch your legs and use the restroom easily
  • get up to walk the aisles at least every two hours
  • avoid gas-producing foods and carbonated beverages before your flight
  • bring a water bottle and stay hydrated throughout the flight
  • pack healthy snacks for when you get hungry

It’s also a good idea to see your doctor before your trip. They can confirm it’s safe for you to travel.

If you’re pregnant, you should avoid travel to any countries with the Zika virus. You can find up-to-date travel guidance information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before your trip, research the closest hospital to your destination in the event of an emergency, and take a copy of your prenatal records with you just in case you need to see a doctor while you’re away from home.

The takeaway

For many women, the best time to fly is during the second trimester. That’s when morning sickness has likely subsided and your energy levels will be highest.

If you need to fly earlier or later in your pregnancy, it’s likely safe up to 36 weeks if you’re carrying a single baby, or up to 32 weeks if you’re carrying multiple babies. Always talk to your doctor before your flight to confirm it’s safe for you. They can also provide a medical certificate with your due date listed.

Before you fly, also review your airline’s specific policies for pregnancy on their website.