Traveling While Pregnant: What You Should Know

    Updated 14 April 2020 |
    Published 12 November 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    During pregnancy, you can still do many of the things you enjoyed before you were pregnant, including travel. Here, we want to share some tips on how to make your traveling experience during pregnancy safer and more comfortable. All recommendations are based on a position statement by the European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (EBCOG).

    When is the best time for traveling during pregnancy?

    The best time for a trip is the second trimester. During the second trimester, the nausea of the first weeks of pregnancy has passed, you won’t have the fatigue that can come in the later stages, and your belly will still be small enough to get around fairly easily. 

    Most airlines would ask you to carry a letter from your doctor or midwife stating how many weeks pregnant you are when flying. EBCOG recommends that such a letter also include:

    Note that most airlines allow pregnant women to fly only up to 37 weeks of gestation (32 weeks for twin pregnancies).

    Aircraft, train, or car: which is the best option for traveling while pregnant

    Generally, you can use any type of transportation when traveling during pregnancy. However, for long distances, it may be best to opt for a short flight rather than a long car, bus, or train ride, as the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is higher when seated for extended periods of time.

    When wearing a seatbelt, make sure that it doesn’t press on your uterus. You can wear the upper belt above the belly and the lower belt across the upper thighs.

    Pregnancy and travel: are there any risks to be aware of?

    Traveling during pregnancy doesn’t increase your risk of developing complications such as bleeding or going into preterm labor. However, should these occur whilst mid-flight or mid-crossing on, for instance, a ferry, it may take considerably longer before you can get to a hospital.

    Although in most cases traveling while pregnant will be safe, there are additional risk factors to be aware of. 

    Is radiation exposure a risk?

    The exposure to cosmic radiation during flights is too low to cause any problems when combining pregnancy and travel. A dose you would receive in a 10-hour flight roughly equals 0.05 millisieverts. To put things into perspective, 0.1 millisieverts is a typical chest X-ray (0.00007 millisieverts of which will reach the fetus), and 3 millisieverts is the dose you get every year from natural sources. The amount of radiation you get during security scanning is negligible, roughly equal to 2 minutes of flight, which is why pregnancy isn’t a reason not to go through a security scanner.

    Low pressure in the airplane cabin

    Because of the reduced pressure outside, your blood carries less oxygen during flight. This is not a big deal if you are completely healthy. However, this risk factor may be important for pregnant women with a hemoglobin (Hb) level of 4.65 millimoles per liter or less and those who have a serious respiratory or cardiac condition or had a sickle cell crisis recently.

    The reduced barometric pressure in airplanes can also lead to nasal congestion, which can cause discomfort and problems within the ears, particularly if you have sinusitis or an ear infection. If you’ve undergone recent bowel surgery, the sutures on your intestine can come under stress.

    Blood clots

    Reduced mobility increases the risk of blood clotting. The following can improve blood flow and reduce the risk of developing clots:

    • Wear well-fitted compression stockings when traveling during pregnancy.
    • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
    • Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol, as these can lead to dehydration.
    • If possible, try to exercise or walk every 30 minutes. If you’re traveling by car, arrange rest breaks and take short walks. When traveling by bus, train, or plane, it’s best to choose an aisle seat to be able to get up and walk and have easier access to the toilet.
    • You may want to consider taking blood thinners such as low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWH) if you have additional risk factors for developing blood clots and if your doctor approves this.

    Infectious diseases

    When traveling to certain destinations, it is possible to contract infections endemic to those regions. You can get vaccinated in advance to prevent some infections, however, it’s best to avoid traveling to such countries during pregnancy. Health organizations such as WHO and ACOG specifically advise against visiting countries where one can contract the Zika virus. This virus is dangerous for the fetus, and there’s still no vaccine against it.

    In areas where malaria exists, it is important to try to prevent mosquito bites by covering your skin between dusk and dawn, by applying a DEET repellent to exposed skin, and by sleeping under an intact mosquito net treated with DEET.

    It’s important to tell your doctor or nurse about your travels and inform them of any illnesses you had while traveling.

    Bottom line

    Traveling during pregnancy is generally safe. When planning your trip, think about your comfort first and choose options that will make your experience smoother. Pregnancy and travel are combinable, and following simple safety rules will only help you enjoy your journey!

    Content created in association with EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

    History of updates

    Current version (14 April 2020)

    Reviewed by EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

    Published (12 November 2019)

    In this article

      Try Flo today

      Sign up for our newsletter

      Our latest articles and news straight to your inbox.

      Thanks for signing up

      We're testing right now so not collecting email addresses, but hoping to add this feature very soon.