When I was 6 months pregnant I flew to Australia from the UK and at 7 months pregnant I flew back. While travelling later in pregnancy brings its own challenges, in most cases with a little pre planning there is no reason why you can't still go on that dream trip and be comfortable while flying! Maybe you're planning a romantic babymoon before the little one arrives, or you have a work trip or destination wedding booked - if you've bought that ticket and your midwife has signed you off as low risk for travel, here is everything you need to know to stay comfortable while in the air during your third trimester.
Not in your third trimester yet? Check out our other blogs about travelling in pregnancy!
If you're flying long haul (a flight longer than 4 hours), you have a small risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis). You can help yourself avoid DVT by wearing compression socks (I wore these snazzy ones from Not Your Grandma's), drinking plenty of water and moving about regularly.
Once the seatbelt sign is off, take a walk up and down the aisle for about three minutes every hour or so. Stand and stretch your back and do some raises up onto your tiptoes to keep everything flowing and to avoid swelling. If you're stuck in your seat, gently flex and point your feet, rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes.
2. Book an aisle seat if you can
You can walk up and down easily, go to the loo as often as you like without having to worry about waking up the person next to you and can stretch out your legs a bit more if the aisle is clear. Just watch out for the trolley!
3. Fasten your seatbelt properly.
Just like you've been advised to do in a car, while flying pregnant adjust your seat belt so that it sits under your bump and across your pelvis. If you need to, ask the cabin crew for a seat belt extender.
4. Comfy clothes
Stretchy maternity leggings and a loose top were my go to clothes for flying in my 3rd trimester. Planes can get chilly, so pack warm layers that you can take off when needed (I found it harder to regulate my body temperature in later pregnancy) - a thin jumper or microfleece can also be rolled up to bolster your lower back.
5. Slip on shoes
Wearing slip on shoes means that you can easily kick them off on the flight and now that your bump is bigger, not having laces saves bending down in security if you need to take off your shoes and put them back on again. Which ever slip on shoes you choose, make sure they're not too tight in case your feet swell.
6. Snacks and water
I don't know bout you, but now I'm in my third trimester I'm constantly ravenous! Pack plenty of healthy snacks for your flight like cereal bars, fruit and nuts, especially if having an empty stomach makes you feel sick. It will also help you to keep your blood sugar levels, avoiding that annoying pregnancy dizziness and you if you can't face the on-board meal options you'll still have food.
Don't let worrying about needing the loo make you limit your water intake - like we said in tip #1, staying hydrated is really important to avoid DVT, but it will also help with fluid retention and associated swelling (oedema) and stop you from feeling sluggish. To try and limit single use plastic (and those rip off airport prices!) bring an empty metal water bottle in your carryon that you can fill before boarding once you're through security.
7. Ask for help!
99.9% of people are unbelievably helpful when they see a pregnant lady, whether that means helping with lifting luggage into the overhead compartment or letting her jump the queue for the loo. If you need more snacks or water, just ask the flight crew. They will be more than happy to help!
You can also help yourself to have a comfier third trimester flight: Make use of the back seat pocket and have your things that you'll want for the flight ready for when you sit down - this saves constantly having to bend down to get things out from under the seat in front (so uncomfortable with a baby bump!) or lifting things down from the overhead compartment.
8. Listen to and trust your own body.
Probably the most important tip of all - everyone's pregnancy is different, and what works for you might not be right for someone else and vice versa. By now you'll have a good idea of what you're comfortable doing and what your body will allow. Touch wood, symptoms-wise I've been very lucky with my pregnancy apart from a little fatigue and first trimester nausea and so felt totally up for a long haul trip to australia but I appreciate that not everyone will feel the same. If you know that back or pelvic pain is affecting you then save the longer flights and hiking and book a more restful trip closer to home where you can relax and look forward to welcoming baby.
On the way back from Australia we had a 4 hour layover in Singapore so David booked us both into a lounge - this was life changing. a hot shower, snacks, cold drinks and a comfy chair where I could put my feet up (and get a calf and foot massage!) was transformative and meant that I felt refreshed and ready for the last leg of travel.
Essential hand luggage packing list for flying while pregnant: What to bring onboard:
Your maternity notes if they're a paper version - many women have theirs online now like My Pregnancy Notes or the Badger app.
Any medication you've been prescribed.
Your Fit to Fly letter - After 28 weeks of pregnancy, most airlines will require a letter from your doctor to confirm your due dates and to prove that you're well enough to fly and that your pregnancy is progressing without complications. Some airlines have their own templates that need to be filled in or a prewritten letter that you can print off and ask your doctor to sign, some will just have a list of bullet points for your doctor to include in a letter - check before you travel.
Your travel insurance documents - be sure to check the small print as well, my insurance that I used for Australia only covered me up til 32 weeks pregnant. It's also worth sussing out where the maternity hospital in your destination is ahead of time, just in case.
Your compression socks
Something for anti nausea. Even though morning sickness seems a long time ago by the time you're in your 3rd trimester, pregnancy has a way of chucking surprising curve balls at you. Have a couple of sick bags to hand or some chewable ginger. Equally, I've always found acupressure wristbands like Seabands to be really effective for preventing nausea.
Heartburn tablets. Heartburn is a common symptom in your third trimester and certainly became a frequent and unwelcome visitor for me. The last thing you want when stuck on a plane is that awful burny acidic feeling, so have your heartburn tablets easily accessible ready to calm things down when needed.
Face wipes. Long haul travel can make you feel grimy and tired even if you're not pregnant, so having a pack of face wipes to freshen up with or cool yourself down will be a real treat.
Rollerball/aromatherapy oils. If you're feeling anxious about travelling while pregnant, pamper yourself with a few drops of calming aromatherapy oil on a hanky that you can inhale, or a rollerball for your wrists. Relaxing lavender or cheerful manderin are great choices, just make sure that anything you carry on board is under 100ml in size so that you can bring it through security in your clear bag.
That's our list of top tips for staying comfortable flying while pregnant, we hope you found it useful! Let's quickly go over a couple of common questions about travelling in your third trimester.
Is it safe to fly in my third trimester?
It's usually safe to fly for most of your third trimester but this will depend on whether you've had any medical problems or complications during your pregnancy.
NB - we are not medically trained and every pregnancy is different, so the tips in this blog comes entirely from my own experiences of travelling while pregnant. If you have any specific concerns regarding your own pregnancy, complications and travel, please discuss these with and seek advice from your midwife, OBGYN or healthcare provider for specific medical answers before your trip, especially if you're traveling to a place with different healthcare facilities to those at home or traveling long distances.
Like we said in our blog about second trimester travel, the later you get in your pregnancy, the higher your odds are of encountering a few challenges. Most airlines have a deadline after which they won't allow you to fly even in a low risk pregnancy: if you are expecting one baby you can fly up to 36 weeks pregnant, if you're having twins or more this comes down to 32 weeks. Plan ahead carefully - if you fly at say, 34 weeks pregnant, the cut-off applies to how many weeks pregnant you are on your return journey.
Are there any reasons why I shouldn't fly in my third trimester?
Again, like we said in our 2nd trimester travel blog, there are a few pregnancy conditions and complications that put you into a high risk category, which means that your midwife will advise against travel. If this happens you won't be able to get your fit to fly letter and could be denied boarding by the airline. These include:
If there's a chance you may go into early labour/you have a previous history of early labour.
You've recently experienced vaginal bleeding.
Placenta Previa (when the placenta is low lying and close to or covering the cervix)
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