Saturday, 31 August 2013

Heavy Baggage: Flying Whilst Pregnant

Our little Scrufty (the name Mister Three has given to our bump) has taken three airborne trips over the last few months.  I know that I had lots of questions about flying with a bump before trying it out for myself, so I thought I'd share my experiences for other mums-to-be who are considering it.

The first trip: Kuala Lumpur --> Dubai --> London --> Dubai --> Kuala Lumpur with Emirates
13 to 17 weeks

The second trip: Kuala Lumpur -->Singapore --> Brisbane --> Singapore --> Kuala Lumpur with Singapore Airlines
21 to 24 weeks

The third trip: Kuala Lumpur --> Denpasar --> Kuala Lumpur, Air Asia
26 weeks

The hardest of these flights was the first, not least because it was the longest, but also because I have suffered with hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme sickness) throughout this pregnancy and at 13 weeks, whilst I was learning to manage the condition, I was still reeling from the effects.  My obstetrician okayed the trip to go back for a family wedding provided I continued to take my medication religiously and drank as much (water) as I could.

The second flight, although it involved just myself and three year old was much easier.  At this point in the pregnancy, whilst hardly radiant and basking in the glow of pregnancy, I had the sickness under much better control and wasn't so bump-laden that sitting on a plane felt uncomfy.

The final flight, although short, was a less luxurious experience: growing bump + budget airline.

So what works, and what doesn't when you fly with a bump?

Things to do:

1. Get your doctor's okay.  For most women it's fine to fly during your first and second trimesters, but check with your practitioner first.  If you are flying in the latter stages of pregnancy you may require a letter from your doctor outlining their approval.  Each airline has a different policy on this so check before you book your ticket.  

2. Check your travel insurance.  Cover whilst pregnant can vary - make sure you know what you've paid for.

3. Choose your seat in advance.  You can usually pre-book your seat online.  If you're not sure of the configuration of your plane, check out the wonderful site Seat Guru.  According to my pilot brother, the middle of the plane is the area where you will experience least turbulence.  Consider also proximity to toilets (especially an issue if you are sick or have a busy pregnancy bladder), and whether you'd be more comfy in an aisle seat where you can get up and down as you please, or next to a window, where you can lean your head against the side and zone out.

4. Pack carefully.  If you are experiencing sickness and can't avoid travelling, think carefully about the sorts of foods and drinks you can tolerate, and pack your own.  You won't be allowed to take more than 100mL of liquid on board, so consider taking powdered drinks that you can add to water on board or your favourite tea bags.  Also pack the sort of snacky food that helps keep nausea at bay and keeps your energy levels up.  I always take a thick woollen shawl with me when I travel.  It doubles up as a cosy blanket, much more snug than the thin ones airlines hand out.  And make sure you pack flight socks.  The risk of DVT is slightly heightened when pregnant.  Lastly, keep your medical notes in your handbag.

5. Dress comfortably.  You might live in your maternity jeans, but think twice about flying in them.  Denim tends to be stiff and can dig in.  It's also very hard to get flight socks on properly under skinny jeans.  I prefer to wear comfy maternity leggings with a loose top.  I always go for a mid-length sleeve with my shawl or a cardigan to add if I get cold.  Flat shoes that you can slip on or off are a must.  Ballet shoes are ideal.

6. Make friends with the cabin crew - I've found them to be very helpful when I tell them I'm pregnant, plying me with extra pillows and checking on me now and again to see if I'm comfy.  The exception to this may be on budget airlines:  I was pretty unimpressed that Air Asia required me to buy a bottle of water just so I could take my sickness medicine.  On the other hand, the lovely staff at Emirates personally ushered me up to Business Class so I could use the toilets there and skip the ever-present economy queue.

7. Move around.  Chances are, if your pregnancy bladder is anything like mine, you'll be forced to do this in the form of numerous visits to the loo.  It's important to keep moving to help prevent the risk of DVT and it should also help to counteract swelling feet.  

And now a few don'ts:

1. Long transits!  On the trip to London, we flew with Emirates and had a four hour stopover in Dubai.  The rationale behind this was that it would be good for both myself and our three year old to have a stretch between flights.  The reality was that we disembarked at 2am, having to wake our sleeping boy.  None of us were in the mood for four hours of shopping - we just wanted to get back on board and curl up.  That said, between Kuala Lumpur and Brisbane my little boy and I had a two hour transit in Singapore.  This worked well - just long enough for a leg stretch and a coffee stop before getting back on board.

2. Budget airlines!  Normally I'm an advocate.  What's not to love about flying around the world for half the price of the other airlines?  When you're pregnant though, you will notice the reduced leg room, the hard seat backs and the limited service on board.  It's the one time in your life when you really, really need those little comforts.

3. Worry!  Millions of pregnant women fly.  And in all likelihood, it will be the easiest flight you ever take with a baby in tow.


  1. When six month pregnant with my first child, I insisted on taking the train from Singapore to KL for Christmas rather than 'risk' flying! The return train journey was the longest, most uncomfortable journey of my life. So bad in fact that I got a full refund! Twenty two months later and 36 weeks pregnant with my second child, my doctor in Manila, where we were then living, told me that I was already dilating and signed me off to fly to Singapore where I planned to have my baby. I got three seats to myself and wonderful attention from SIA and made it to Singapore with 10 days to spare before the birth. I always laugh about that train journey as it sure was the trip of a life time but a plane sure would have been more comfortable:)

  2. Hi Expatrunner!

    Your story made me smile. I probably would have made the same decision when it was my first pregnancy too. I was really nervous about flying pregnant when I did it first time round. But the train trip sounds like torture - I can imagine what all that bumping around did for you!! Thanks for sharing this - I think other mums will find it useful to hear from someone else that flying whilst pregnant isn't all bad!


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