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Flying While Pregnant: Airline Requirements And Health Concerns

Flying with a pregnant partner pretty much guarantees that nobody is going to be comfortable in your row. Except for the fetus. The kid’s got a pretty sweet spot: in flight meals, noise canceling womb and the ability to curl up and sleep during the flight. Huh. How long before womb-class flying becomes a thing? Probably never for Virgin. It’s inconceivable.

Whatever your reason for wanting to fly when your gal is knocked-up, your first question is definitely going to be, “Can I, even?” Followed by, “When can I even?” The good news is that if your doctor gives you a thumbs up, and your partner isn’t experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, you’re good to go until week 36. That’s well into the third trimester. Of course, why you’d want to be dealing with the awfulness that is modern air travel while your partner is a swollen, cranky mess is your own business. As is your obvious penchant for sadomasochism.

Beyond those initial questions, there are a few more things you might want to consider before hoping on that big ol’ jet airliner — not including the feeling of comeuppance as you smuggle a third person on the plane when you’ve only paid for two. Take THAT baggage fees.

Cosmic Radiation

There was some recent hype about the amount of increased radiation passengers get in a metal tube hurtling above the clouds. But it turns out hype is pretty much all it was, particularly for pregnant passengers. So, sadly, your gestating kid isn’t going to develop superpowers on the way to Des Moines.

flickr / Mike Liu

flickr / Mike Liu

That fact is backed up by a 2009 report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Researchers noted that pregnant women and their own teeny passengers were unlikely to be adversely affected by increased radiation for most domestic flights. However, they did note that pregnant women may want to be a bit more cautious if they are very frequent business fliers (or just starred with George Clooney Up In The Air).

There’s actually a tool from the FAA that will help you determine how much cosmic radiation you’ll be bombarded with on your flight. You just need to know a few details like number of en route altitudes. Um. Hopefully, really freaking high up for most of it without any drastic changes?

Staying Comfortable

You’ll probably want to make sure your lady gets that aisle seat. Doctors recommend that she get up and wander during longer flights. This is to combat deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is when blood pools in the legs and creates clots that can begin moving upon standing. It’s much more of a problem with pregnant women.

Doctors also recommend she wear loose comfy clothing. But you know suggesting what a lady should wear is not generally recommended, so maybe keep that to yourself.

flickr / Matthew Hurst

flickr / Matthew Hurst

Certain Restrictions May Apply

Because airlines are airlines, they may make you jump through certain hoops, particularly when flying in the third trimester. After all, almost no one flying into Dallas wants to watch you try to hypnobirth a baby at 36,000 feet.

Here are the requirements from the top airlines for flying while pregnant:

  • Southwest: Women in the third trimester will not be seated in an emergency exit row
  • American: A doctor’s note that you’re cleared to fly is required at 28 weeks
  • United: In the ninth month, a doctor’s note is required that places due date after your flight
  • JetBlue: Bars flying without doctor’s note when you are within 7 days of your due date
  • Delta: Has no restrictions for pregnant passengers

If you are flying when pregnant, it’s good to get your docs all clear anyway. And if all else fails you can always try to get super indignant when some flight attendant tries to suggest your lady is too pregnant to fly. That always works. Probably.

Of course you could also just take a road trip.