When I became pregnant in Ecuador, we started to make plans to relocate back to Taiwan at 13 weeks pregnant. Flying while pregnant has always been a high possibility, particularly because Albie and I not only enjoy traveling but living in different countries for long periods of time.
In fact, we have been traveling and living in different countries for the last 8-10 years. Though being pregnant can add a new element that can be tricky to what we are use to when flying, it was the best decision for us and our little growing family at the time.
Considerations Before Flying While Pregnant
Making the decision to fly while pregnant is of course a personal choice that is made between you and your partner. Whether it’s for a babymoon, short flights domestically for work or for any other reason, making the decision should be taken very seriously as it can have an effect on you and your baby’s health. For us, we made this decision for several reasons.
Firstly, the health of the baby and my health was our biggest concern and consideration. We made sure that I was not at risk of a miscarriage, completed my morning sickness and was clear to travel even after having a hematoma.
We wanted to travel in the second trimester but not too far along the pregnancy in order to make the journey and experience of flying while pregnant the most comfortable and enjoyable it can be. We also wanted to avoid any complications or requirements from airlines including doctor letters to make the process hassle-free.
Secondly, it’s important for us that we both felt comfortable about flying while pregnant. Since Albie and I have been traveling for years and we are use to flying long distance flights as well as non-direct flights, it’s not such a daunting experience and we felt comfortable doing so even when pregnant.
Our reason for flying while pregnant was also valid in our opinion. We made this decision to relocate in response to finding out that we were pregnant. Having a long discussion on where we wanted to raise our baby and to essentially call home for at least the next 5 years played an important part in our decision making process.
Because we had previously lived in Taiwan and thought it would be a great place to settle down, we made the decision to relocate to Taiwan during the best time-frame possible; between 13 weeks and no more than 20 weeks. It would also mean that we would be significantly closer to family and friends back in Australia and could visit Australia every year as compared to staying put in Ecuador where the cost and distance to fly to Australia was too much for us to sustain.
If you too are considering flying while pregnant, here are a few things to consider before making the decision on whether or not you should travel.
1. Pregnancy complications and health risks
If you have been experiencing any health complications during your pregnancy or have been advised not to fly during your pregnancy by your doctor, it is best to not fly. Also, avoiding flying during the first trimester (Weeks 1-13) is a good idea as this period of time is when you can have the highest probability of a miscarriage. Stress, altitude changes and tiredness can effect the health of your baby and you and these can be heightened while flying.
2. How far along are you in your pregnancy
Most airlines permit flying while pregnant for women who are no more than 32 weeks pregnant. However, if you fly after 27 weeks you are most likely required to present a doctor certificate or doctor’s letter that states that you are in good health to fly while pregnant. Many airlines will ask you to fill a form and sign a statement that you are pregnant and agree to the terms and conditions of flying. This is to ensure that the airline is not liable for any health risks or loss while flying and therefore you take the responsibility of flying in your own hands.
Each airline has their own set policies and regulations that you will need to follow. Be sure to check beforehand in order to avoid any issues with boarding your flight.
3. Reasons and costs for flying while pregnant
Consider whether or not the reason for travel is the right choice and if it is truly essential to do. Preparing for your travel including booking, packing and organizing a trip can be stressful and tiring- something that can be avoided if it is not necessary to travel at all.
Alternatively, if you are thinking of having a babymoon overseas, you can instead go on a road trip close by in order to still get a similar experience and holiday without the added complications. If you’ve made plans prior being pregnant, consider postponing them to a later date or selecting more of an appropriate time frame during your pregnancy to go.
Although there are no additional costs to fly while pregnant, there might be other personal costs added because you are pregnant. This includes baggage costs, opting for premium airlines instead of budget-friendly airlines and buying extra food and snacks. In terms of baggage, it’s best not to have heavy carry-on bags with you to avoid heavy lifting and carrying large and heavy luggage on the plane. This can cause stress, back pain and result in more complicated issues during your pregnancy. Paying for checked baggage, seat requests and comforts such as blankets and pillows can all help you throughout the flight but can be costly if you are going on a budget airline. Being pregnant means accommodating for food cravings as well as extra meals and snacks throughout the duration of the trip.
My experience flying while pregnant
When hitting my 13 weeks pregnant milestone, we embarked on several flights to make our way towards the Asia Pacific.
We flew from Cuenca to Quito in Ecuador to Miami to New York and then stayed in New York for 10 days to catch up on rest, spend time with family and enjoy New York with our beloved dog, Buckwheat for the first time. Afterwards, we flew on a direct flight from New York to Taipei, dropped off our dog in mandatory quarantine and flew on the same day to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and then to Sydney Australia to spend time with family and friends for just under 3 weeks. We then flew back via Malaysia to Taiwan, picked up our dog after completing his quarantine and made our way to Tainan, the third largest city to find our new home.
I know what you are thinking- that was an intense 2 months of traveling back and forth across the globe. Couldn’t we have traveled directly to Taiwan and stay put? Well, yes but to be honest, it was the most cost-effective way to relocate with our dog. We knew that we wanted to avoid as much as possible cargo services or pet services for Buckwheat and fly with him all the way to Taiwan. It was less stress on our dog and on us. We also needed to sort a few things out in the US before going to Taiwan and thought we could break up our flights so we could rest in between. We also had not visited Australia for just under 2 years, so making the trip to Sydney with some good pregnancy news was a great idea.
While I am use to traveling and flying on planes for the last ten years, the body can definitely take a different kind of toll while pregnant. I have to say, I was tired, hungry and just drained for the most part. The first batch of flights to New York was particularly exhausting as there was a lot of going in and out of airport security check points for our bags and for Buckwheat’s clearance.
The US has strict regulations and this can often mean that there are more requirements to get through checkpoints. Although we had everything planned in my trustee folder including all of Buckwheat’s paperwork, our flight details, passport and visa requirements, it still was pretty tiring to complete.
This with the added time difference, flight delays and running around airports finding decent vegetarian food, had us eyed-wide open for 24 hours. I remember finally getting to New York at our relative’s apartment and crushing for the whole day.
Overall, the actual flights I took was fine. I found that I was a little nervous on the first flight particularly when we were taking off for the first time. I’ve never traveled pregnant before and didn’t really know what to expect. I was somewhat worried that my baby would be harmed in the process or that I would not feel well. But I think because I have been use to flying, I grabbed my husband’s hand and calmed myself down. After the first landing, I felt more confident that everything was going to okay.
5 Tips For Flying While Pregnant
From my own experience traveling while pregnant, here are just a few tips that can help make the experience more comfortable.
1. Bring food and have many small meals before, during and after your flight
Whenever you travel, you’ll spend a good amount of time at the airport before boarding your flight. This is the first instance where you’ll need to consider preparing snacks for in case you start feeling peckish. This is the period where you’ll travel to the airport, check-in and go through the security checkpoints before waiting to board your plane. Generally it can take 1-3 hours of your time, depending on whether you are flying domestic or an international flight.
Another reason why bringing your own snacks is so important is to accommodate for your own dietary needs and cravings. Many airlines will provide meals throughout the duration of your flight but let’s remember that when you are pregnant, your taste buds and interest in certain foods can change dramatically. One day you might be interested in breads and pasta while the next, just the smell of it can make you lose your appetite or even worst, trigger vomiting and an unpleasant rush to the bathroom.
I found that there’s a long gap between waiting for the first meal to come out and the next, which can be particularly difficult when food is served according to the time difference of your end destination instead of the current time when boarding the flight.
It’s always a good idea to pack your own food in case you are not too keen on the plane food being served or snacks for when you are waiting to be served. As a pregnant woman, you have the right to bring your own food on any airline due to your ‘specific dietary needs’, so don’t be shy at all about bringing your own food.
You’ll also need to make sure you have enough food prepared for when you land. In most cases, you’ll need to go through customs and quarantine, pick up your luggage and spend the next hour or so traveling to your hotel or next destination. During this time, you’ll start feeling hungry once more, particularly because airlines generally stop serving food an hour before landing the plane.
Here are a few snack suggestions and tips for you to bring with you on your travels (of course these will need to be modified to your tastes and cravings):
1. Bring food that is easy to dispose, will fill you up and is easy to carry in your handbag
Snacks such as nuts, crackers, biscuits and healthy bars are all great options as they are light, individually packed and can help you when you have the munchies. Avoid any foods that can easily leak, spill or spoil in your handbag. Food that doesn’t look appetizing to eat will most likely be unappealing once you are on the plane.
2. Variety is key
Often you might be hungry for a particular type of ingredient but its always a good idea to pack a variety of different foods to keep your taste buds interested. There’s nothing more boring then getting on an 18 hour flight with 10 packets of the same foods.
3. Bring an empty bottle for water
Strangely enough, airlines have the right to not provide free water and often will sell water at extremely high prices. Staying hydrated during your flight can also help make you feel more comfortable.
You might not know this but in all airports there are free water dispensers available to fill an empty bottle or two ready for the plane. Remember to keep it empty throughout the security check-points and fill them up when going to your gate.
2. Wear comfortable clothes
Traveling can be very exciting but remember to be practical when dressing for your flight. There’s no point in wearing heels. There are many options that are comfortable and yet still stylish and on trend. I prefer wearing leggings or slim cut joggers with either sandals or sneakers. Coupled with a comfortable bra (like a sports bra with no wires or annoying bra straps that constantly fall down) and a t-shirt.
Depending on the weather, you might want to bring with you a scarf or a cardigan, particularly if your airline does not provide blankets for overnight flights. A pair of extra socks can come in handy if you start feeling cold on the plane or if it helps you get a little more comfortable on board to get some sleep.
During the flight, you might notice swelling of the feet and ankles. This is common not only for pregnant women but for individuals flying long distances. To make it more comfortable with the altitude changes, it can be helpful to wear the proper shoes that are not only comfortable but are easy to slip on and off. Being able to slip your shoes on and off is ideal for airport security checkpoints where many airports across the world will ask you to take off your shoes for scanning. It can make a world of a difference on the plane too. Make sure you wear shoes that are wide enough to feet and if you insist, a platform shoe for height would be preferable than the standard heel.
3. Rest when you can
Even though you are technically not doing all that much on the plane or at the airport, you can still feel a sense of fatigue, making the experience less enjoyable. There might be flight delays or long waiting lines before and after your flight.
It’s important to make sure to take the time out and rest when you can. Having little comforts such as a neck pillow, blanket or cozy cardigan, ear plugs and an eye mask can really help you stay well rested during your travels.
4. Choose your airline and flight wisely
A few things need to be considered when choosing your airline and flight:
a) Time you will board the plane and arrive at your destination
Sometimes the cheaper flights or the flights that go to your end destination depart at some strange hours. This means you’ll need to consider the effect it will have on you for your meals and your sleep. Time difference can play a huge role in how well your body will adjust once you arrive at your end destination. Make sure that you give enough time to adjust and catch up on rest and sleep.
b) What the airline provides and what it doesn’t
There are generally two types of airlines you can go with. The first is a high end airline and the second is a budget-friendly airline. If you are opting for the budget-airline, consider opting for the extra benefits like being able to choose your seat with more leg room, prepaid meals and comfort kits.
If the airline does not supply you with these amenities, you might want o consider opting for them or bringing your own to ensure your comfort while flying.
c) How many stops and how long the flight takes to reach your end destination
Consider how many flights you’ll actual need to take to reach your end destination, whether you can stay at a hotel during your layovers or if there will be hours of waiting time at airports in between flights. If you end up having to transfer planes, make sure that it is no more than 1-2 hours and if it is, ensure that the layover is long enough for you to stay at a decent hotel to get some proper sleep.
Flying direct is always ideal but can be costly and still difficult. Work out whether having shorter multiple flights is better for you compared to having just one long distance flight.
5. Health is the first priority no matter what
Everyone wants to get the most out of their travels. This could mean you might have set plans, bookings, places to visit and have set some pretty high expectations of your travel experience. But remember that the most important thing is the health of your baby and yourself. Regardless of your travel arrangements, it’s important to put your health and your baby’s health first.
If this mean forgoing a certain activity in order to get the rest you need to recharge, then this should be your priority. If you aren’t feeling well or need a few more hours of sleep, then that should be on the top of your list. You’ll find that making sure your health is first priority will allow you to enjoy the rest of your time refreshed, energized and ready for adventure.
Flying while pregnant is becoming more and more a common experience for pregnant women all over the world. I hope that this post provides reassurance and some helpful advice and tips to make sure you enjoy your travels as much as I have.