21st July 2015. That’s the date my life changes beyond recognition. That’s the day I become flooded with a new, crazy, all-encompassing love. That’s the day my baby is due to be born.

Actually, in reality, that’s probably not going to be the day at all. Who knows when this baby is going to come and how and if I will indeed feel all those feelings at once, or if they’ll (hopefully!) stagger themselves over a period of weeks as I try to get the hang of everything I need to do to give this kid a good start in life. One of the things I’m already thinking about is how we’ll cope flying with a baby. I suspect it will be one of those things you can only learn by doing.

But before I jump that far ahead, I think it’s more important to share some advice on tips on something I have now learned a lot about; flying while pregnant. While some pregnant women will purposefully avoid getting on a plane while they’re expecting, others will adopt a business as usual approach to travel while pregnant and think nothing of hopping on and off planes. I think I fall somewhere in the middle, but no matter what your attitude (all of which are 100% right – it’s always your decision!) here are some tips that will hopefully be helpful if you do decide to get on a plane when pregnant.

General tips for flying while pregnant

My general expression for much of my pregnancy - the shock really doesn't wear off even when it's wonderfully expected!

My general expression for much of my pregnancy – the shock really doesn’t wear off even when it’s wonderfully expected!

Number one advice of course, is that you should only travel if you know it’s safe to do so. The only people who can tell you this are your medical professionals. I spoke to my doctor before flying to South Africa in my first trimester and after that I’ve checked in with my midwife before jumping, okay, waddling onto a plane. I’m very lucky that so far I’ve had a smooth, complication-free pregnancy and the midwife team who look after me here in the Netherlands are extremely efficient at being aware of this.

Number two tip is wear comfortable clothes. Sounds obvious – even for non-pregnant ladies! – but you’d be surprised which clothes you think are comfortable enough to fly in then throw in an expanded belly and ten hours in the very same outfit and you’re soon changing  your mind. I normally opt for black leggings (and maternity leggings post Week 20), baggy T-shirts and oversized jumpers which I “dress up” with a pair of boots that I take off as soon as I can on a plane.

Check the airline is happy for you to fly. Each airline has different guidelines for how many weeks a pregnant woman must be before she needs a letter from a medical professional or when she is not permitted to travel with them. Check online or give them a call if you’re not sure. I know from experience that they’re very strict about this (I’ve had to wait at check-in desks twice while staff consulted each other and made phone calls to confirm I was safe as per their rules) so don’t get caught out!

Pregnancy makes you tired, so allow for this before, after and during a flight. Even in the second trimester when you have very welcome surges of energy, you’ll still have days when you feel a bit bulldozed with lethargy. These can creep up on you without warning but I have definitely found that flying and travelling in general can make me feel more tired. Therefore, don’t make plans to be somewhere important straight away after landing. Don’t book flights that leave in the middle of the night or very early in the morning (if you can help it). Give yourself plenty of time to catch up on sleep after you arrive and also do your best to be rested before a flight. When on the plane make sure you have what you need to help you sleep, or at the very least relax. For me that’s a pair of earplugs, an eye mask, a pair of warm socks and a large scarf I can turn into either an extra pillow or blanket.

Learn some basic stretches. These will help avoid clotting (which pregnant women are at a slightly higher risk of) but will also counteract other symptoms of pregnancy like cramp, restless leg syndrome and any aches and pains you may have. I was very lucky that my yoga teacher (the lovely Corine from YogaYatra in Amsterdam) went through a wealth of stretches that I could do on the plane and in the airport before and after  a flight (without looking too strange!) and I have no doubt these did help me avoid serious discomfort when I did a long-haul flight at the end of my second trimester. I also recommend starting these stretches in the days before you travel so you get used to doing them and you give the circulation in your body a bit of a boost.

Don’t go hungry or thirsty. I have been extremely lucky to avoid any kind of nausea or sickness while I’ve been pregnant (I know, very lucky!) but I do start to feel sick when I haven’t eaten or drunk enough water. Airline food isn’t the best or most nutritious so I have tried to eat extra fruit and vegetables before and after a flight and I’ve also not been afraid to ask for snacks when I’ve got hungry on a plane. If nothing else, it’s helped me avoid getting “hangry” which I definitely am more susceptible to since becoming pregnant!

Tell the carrier. Even if you’re not showing and it’s early days so you know you’re safe to fly, it’s not a bad thing to make the airline staff aware that you’re pregnant. This is just in case something happens. Also, you may get first choice on meals and get it brought to you earlier! Thanks Singapore Airlines!

Keep your carry on bag light. I’ve learnt the hard way that carrying too much when your pregnant can definitely slow you down at the time and then impact you later with aching muscles and a sore back. Even when I was in my first trimester and feeling relatively slim and fit, I remember having to ask my boyfriend to take my bag when I was walking through Schiphol airport to baggage reclaim. I just felt suddenly very tired and weak and my bag seemed to have tripled in weight since we’d left South Africa.

Relax. I’ve definitely learned over the last few months that worrying about things while pregnant has real potential to spiral out of control (damn you hormones!) and when I went on our first long haul flight in the first trimester, I was very anxious about what kind of an impact the travel was having on my baby. It got to the point where I was on the verge of tears and snapping at my boyfriend as he tried to cheer me up in the departure lounge before our long haul flight from Cape Town to Amsterdam.

I’ve since read that babies in the womb can become exposed to stress hormones and are influenced by the mother’s well-being in general I realised that actually my getting upset, anxious and stressed probably did more damage than the ten hour flight, although it was thankfully short-lived stress as I fell asleep as soon as I was in my seat. If you feel healthy – physically and emotionally – and you’ve not had any problems so far, then do what you can to relax when flying. Go to a meditation room before boarding. Have a playlist of relaxing music ready. Read a book you know you’ll enjoy. Of course, you’re still going to have anxieties about travelling in general while pregnant – again thanks to those hormones, this is completely normal – but don’t let them impact you, your baby or your holiday!

The above are things you can do in general to best prepare yourself for a flight, and below I share a few tips on flying in the three different trimesters of pregnancy as there are some subtle differences.

Flying in your first trimester

Seven weeks pregnant in South Africa.

Seven weeks pregnant in South Africa.

When I first got pregnant I assumed that flying in my first trimester was completely off the cards as I’d read this somewhere, some time ago. This was a little bit annoying as we’d already booked flights to South Africa for the wedding of some good friends, and we were also due to fly to Austria for a snowboarding holiday. However, a little more research and talking to my doctor revealed that this advice is really only for those who have severe nausea, headaches or other uncomfortable symptoms. Likewise, many women who have already had miscarriages or problematic pregnancies are advised against flying as a precaution in the first trimester because this is really the most critical time in the pregnancy. I was very fortunate that I had a very easy first trimester – apart from extreme tiredness that would see me sleep 12+ hours a night, hardly a hardship! – so once my doctor was happy and my partner and I felt happy and confident, we decided to take the flights we’d already booked. We also added a quick trip back to UK for Christmas too.

I would definitely make sure you have an aisle seat if you fly during your first trimester as you’ll be going to the toilet A LOT! This is a way you can do so without annoying your seat neighbours.

I would also recommend avoiding flying on your own if you don’t have to. I did one flight (to UK) on my own and for all the others I was lucky that my partner was with me. Although I was fine and didn’t have any real issues, just knowing that he was there if I got dizzy or needed a drink of water (or to hold my bags while I ran to the loo, again!) made travelling much more relaxed. Of course, this is just me personally. Other people prefer to travel on their own and yes, I can see benefits to that too!

One extra piece of advice I would add is don’t over-do it. Yes, you’re going to be tired anyway, but I found I spent much of my first trimester not really feeling or looking pregnant, which then left me feeling a bit “not pregnant”. As a result, I acted “not pregnant” and basically thought I could do everything I could before. However, I couldn’t walk as quickly (without getting breathless), I couldn’t stay awake for our midnight flight by drinking coffee and after getting back from Cape Town, I definitely needed half a day to nap and rest rather than jump straight back into work.

Flying in your second trimester

Drinking Coconut Water While Pregnant

Drinking coconut water on our babymoon in Thailand at around 24 weeks pregnant.

We only went on one trip abroad in my second trimester; our babymoon! This involved four flights in total, to Phuket via Singapore, and back again. At six months pregnant exactly, I was feeling great. I still had the second trimester energy bursts and my problem-free pregnancy was still keeping me from the most uncomfortable symptoms. But I was bigger. Much bigger! While this didn’t cause me too much discomfort, it’s definitely hard to ignore that you need to extend the seat belt considerably to accommodate my belly and there was no wriggling around in my seat to try and get comfortable with my legs up or to the side; there was barely room to pull my tray down for dinner.

We spent about 15 hours in the air, and 20-22 hours on our feet when doing the journey to and from Thailand and I would definitely say now that I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any later in my pregnancy. I didn’t sleep as well as I did on flights during my first trimester and I definitely found the 11 hour completely full flight to Singapore tested my patience and comfort levels. But this is where my yoga stretches really helped and having a noticeable belly meant that the airlines staff and passengers didn’t look at me too strangely when I proceeded to walk up and down the aisles elongating my limbs and breathing in and out deeply.

Only fly if you’re really happy and confident to do so. I really, really, really wanted to go on this holiday and I knew all I had to do when I got off the plane was to get to our hotel and relax. This definitely helped me see the bigger picture and relax when I felt most uncomfortable.

Flying in your third trimester

Baby bump while working at airport

Waiting for my flight back to London at 28 weeks pregnant.

I have only taken two flights in my third trimester and they were right at the beginning in Week 28. I needed to get a letter from my midwife for the airline (British Airways) and it was a very short return flight from Amsterdam to London. I was travelling on my own and I didn’t really follow my own advice and I ended up with luggage that was heavier than I would have liked, while people didn’t exactly rush to my aid, when I asked fellow passengers and strangers for help, I was given it. (I also picked up a Baby on Board badge from London Transport, which helped me get a seat on the train to the airport). I would definitely recommend making sure you have a case on four wheels so you can push the suitcase if pulling it gets too hard and if you need special assistance while in the airport, ask for it. They are there for a reason!

I don’t plan on taking any more flights, because I want to spend the remaining few months enjoying getting ready for our little one. I also have to admit that even though I’ve had an incredibly easy pregnancy and even though the London flights are incredibly short, I did find that I was pretty tired after getting home and needed time to feel myself again. Of course, this could just be pregnancy tiring me out – sadly those second trimester energy bursts are going to leave me soon – but I also just think it’s sensible to keep travel to a minimum when so much about the end of a pregnancy is uncertain. In addition to not knowing how or when the baby will make an appearance, you also don’t know how you’re going to feel day-by day, and as you get bigger there’s no denying that sitting down in one position for even just a few hours can make you feel very uncomfortable, especially as baby normally sees your lack of movement as an invitation to start practising their own dance moves and yoga stretches.

Besides, I’ve got to start preparing myself for learning how to travel with a baby soon…

If you have any other tips for flying while pregnant please do leave them in the comments as I’d love to hear what’s worked for you and what hasn’t.


This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.