Flying when pregnant : what you need to know

·5-min read
 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

Travel insurance and coronavirus

When buying travel insurance, check whether the policy provides cancellation cover that includes coronavirus risks, including if you fall ill or need to isolate before you travel. You should also have cover in case you fall ill (including with Covid) while you are away. Read the policy documents and check levels of cover with the insurer if you are not sure what protection is provided.

Expectant mothers will be keen to understand the medical guidance, airline rules and potential impact on travel insurance when it comes to flying at the different stages of pregnancy.

Here’s what you need to know...

Can you fly when pregnant?

According to guidance from the NHS, flying is not considered harmful to you or your baby if you’re having a straightforward pregnancy.

Remember, pregnancy is not an illness!

It says that a change in air pressure or a decrease in humidity won’t cause your baby any harm. There is also no evidence to suggest that flying causes miscarriages, early labour or waters to break.

What about DVT?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops in a deep vein in your leg or pelvis. It’s dangerous if a DVT travels to your lungs and causes a pulmonary embolism.

The risk of DVT increases when you’re flying and especially with longer flights because you are sitting down for a long time.

You’re also at a higher risk of developing DVT when you’re pregnant and for up to six weeks after you give birth. A previous history of DVT and a high body mass index (BMI) can further increase your chance of developing DVT.

Official guidance says you can reduce the risk of developing DVT by making sure you wear loose clothing, do in-seat exercises every 30 minutes, and walk around the plane as regularly as you can. You should also wear compression socks and drink plenty of water.

Flying long-haul (for longer than 4 hours) increases the risk of getting blood clots for everyone. However, there’s no evidence to say whether or not this risk gets higher when you are pregnant.

Can I fly at any time during my pregnancy?

You might not feel like travelling during the first three months when you’re most likely to be suffering from sickness and exhaustion.

When it comes to the later stages, most airlines will not let you fly after week 37 of pregnancy, or week 32 if you're pregnant with twins or more babies.

For the middle part - after 28 weeks, most airlines typically require a letter from your midwife or GP confirming you're in good health, that you have a normal pregnancy and your due date.

It is important to check your particular carrier's policy on travelling when pregnant, as sometimes they carry their own restrictions due to health and safety requirements.

Why are they anxious about women traveling in the latter stages of pregnancy? Quite simply, they want to avoid the risk of the woman going into labour during the flight, which would be potentially dangerous to the health of the woman and the child, and certainly disruptive for all the passengers on board.

Do I need to buy travel insurance for pregnant women?

You will be still covered by a standard travel policy for all the usual risks when you are pregnant. In other words, you will not invalidate your cover simply by the fact that you are pregnant.

If you are pregnant when you buy your travel insurance you will not usually have to declare the fact. However, if you have a medical condition associated with your pregnancy, you are required to declare it.

Similarly, if you have suffered complications during your pregnancy, these would need to be declared and screened by your insurance provider to ensure you are covered in the event of anything happening.

Additionally, your policy may have a number of conditions that apply to all pregnant women, so it is important to check your documents, the insurance company’s website or its help services.

Provided yours has been a straightforward pregnancy with no complications – and you must ensure that you are not travelling against doctors advice – it should be straightforward. If you travel against medical advice, then you won’t be covered by your insurance.

Typically you need to be no more than 36 weeks and six days pregnant (at the start of or during your trip, or on your return date) for a single pregnancy, or 32 weeks and six days for a multiple pregnancy.

As long as you adhere to specific requirements you will be covered if something unexpected should happen.

Where can I buy travel cover?

Travel insurance is widely available and simple to put in place. Our comparison service will help you search the market to find the best value policy.

Should anything go wrong while you’re away, you’ll want a comprehensive policy to ensure you get the best medical care without having to worry about the cost. Before you buy, look out for any exclusions that might apply to you and ensure the limits are generous on medical cover.

Also check the cancellation terms in case you become unwell before you set off or are advised by your doctor not to travel.

What should I think about before I fly when pregnant?

Aside from getting the best travel policy you can find, it’s important to take your maternity notes with you. In case anything happens, you’ll want local doctors knowing how your pregnancy has progressed so far.

You should also take your EHIC card if you’re travelling in Europe. If it’s still in date it will be valid, which means you get limited cover for health issues when visiting countries in the EU (and a few other countries like Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein).

Once that EHIC has expired you will need to apply for the GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) from the NHS.

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