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- Third Trimester Travel Tips
- Travel with a list of important information
- Talk to your doctor about third trimester travel
- Know what areas to avoid
- Download the Kayak app
- Research medical facilities (and my mistake)
- Drink lots of water
- Know your airport options
- Pack an overnight hospital essentials bag
- Plan manageable trips
- More tips for air travel during pregnancy
- Call your OB if you feel that anything is wrong
- Take care of yourself
If you’re pregnant and travel for business or pleasure, you may be wondering how third trimester travel and third trimester flying work. Will you need to step back? What extra precautions will you need to take? We run through what you need to know about traveling and flying in your third trimester, including airline company’s policies for when you might be denied boarding.
Third Trimester Travel Tips
Headed on that babymoon or need to travel for work while pregnant? You can travel confidently into your third trimester if you are having a healthy pregnancy and you plan ahead.
As a former business traveler (we’re talking 3-4 nights a week every week), I traveled through five pregnancies and I’ve got some thoughts on how to do it with minimal stress. Some of these were learned the hard way. During my second pregnancy I had some unexpected discharge and was feeling funny while between Erie, Pennsylvania, and Cleveland, Ohio. Find out what I did wrong there and what I should have done with these tips for third trimester travel.
Travel with a list of important information
Create one sheet that includes your health insurance information, your ob-gyn’s information, and any important need-to-knows about your pregnancy. It is helpful to bring prenatal medical records. Those will come in handy if you have to see doctors and nurses who not familiar with your case. It is also helpful to put an emergency contact and phone number on this list in case you are not in “phoning” condition when you arrive.
Talk to your doctor about third trimester travel
Planning to travel while pregnant? Make sure you touch base with your doctor. He or she can let you know if you have medical clearance to travel. If you are in good health and have had a healthy pregnancy you can usually travel by air within the continental United States until your 36th week of pregnancy. If you’ve had any pregnancy complications or if your pregnancy is considered high-risk, you may be given different parameters.
TravelingMom Tip: Ask for a doctor’s note stating your expected delivery date. The larger you appear, the more likely an airline will ask for proof you are clear to travel. I only had to show it twice over five pregnancies but I was glad I had it!
Know what areas to avoid
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the information you need. Recommendations for pregnant travelers include information on areas to avoid due to the risk of infectious diseases such as Zika and malaria, both of which can be very dangerous during pregnancy.
In addition, you may not be able to get all travel-related vaccines required for certain countries during pregnancy. Visit the CDC website for updates and great info on food and water safety for pregnant travelers.
Download the Kayak app
Kayak allows you to plug in info and look up flights, cars, and hotels. It compares multiple brands and lists them in increasing price order. You can also set parameters to filter out flights with stops and select certain star ratings for hotels. This tool is priceless if you are laying in a hospital bed checking options for your partner to come and meet you if necessary. As a heads up, Kayak does not include results from Southwest.
Research medical facilities (and my mistake)
This is where I made my big mistake! Knowledge is power and knowing where to find nearby medical facilities is key. Before traveling to an area, check for facilities covered by your insurance that provide labor and delivery services.
When I had early labor symptoms, I first went to a hospital walk-in clinic. The front desk let me know the hospital did not have a gynecology department.
I called my ob-gyn, who advised me to go to a hospital emergency room. Concerned and alone, I went to the closest ER. After I was in a room, the nurse told me that hospital didn’t do labor and delivery either! I had to be transferred by ambulance to another hospital. Luckily, it didn’t end up being preterm labor. I was given fluids and kept for observation before being released.
A little research ahead of time will save you a lot of time, money and angst. You had better believe that I knew exactly where I could go for every pregnancy after that! Two hospital bills and an ambulance bill drove that lesson home.
Drink lots of water
Remember that hospital trip I mention above? It was likely because I was dehydrated. Dehydration can spur contractions. It’s hard to convince yourself to drink even more when you’re in the bathroom every hour, but do it. It is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy during third trimester travel.
Know your airport options
If you think you’re going to be heading to a hospital and there’s a chance your partner will need to travel to you, take a quick minute for research. If you Google an airport name, the airport’s website should be one of the first results. Visit the website and click on airlines to see which ones offer direct flights.
I was between Erie, Pennsylvania, and Cleveland, Ohio, when I realized I needed to head to a hospital. After taking a quick peek at airport options, I continued on to Cleveland knowing there were direct flights from our home airport there. My husband didn’t need to fly out, but if he had, Erie would have required a connecting flight, delaying the time it took for him to get to me — even if he didn’t have a flight delay or miss his connection. No need to add to the stress of premature labor with potential connection drama.
Pack an overnight hospital essentials bag
Keep the essentials bag with you at all time. If you are hospitalized while traveling, doctors and nurses are likely to be more thorough and cautious. I went to the ER thinking I would be checked out and cleared to go if my cervix was still closed. I ended staying overnight with just my purse. My essentials bag was in my suitcase. My suitcase was in the trunk of my rental car in the first hospital’s garage. Oops.
I recommend keeping these items in a small packing cube that you can easily grab and bring in to the hospital. I’m Team Giant Purse so I always threw it in there. Don’t bring too much, though. You don’t want to have to keep track of too much if they are shuffling you around.
Items to include in your overnight bag:
- Change of undergarments
- Phone charger
- A copy of your birth plan
- Reading material
- The letter of important information
- External charger for your phone
Plan manageable trips
It may be the right time to ditch long-distance trips and do shorter, closer flights. If you travel for work try to plan long trips for the first and second trimester leaving shorter itineraries for third trimester flying.
TravelingMom Tip: I strongly urge you to make third trimester travel plans on Southwest, which doesn’t charge a cancellation or change fee. With Southwest’s Wanna Get Away fares, you maintain the full value of the ticket for a year from the date of purchase to use on another flight. If you book an Anytime or Business Select ticket you can receive a full refund upon cancellation. Learn more about travel on Southwest Airlines with our full guide!
More tips for air travel during pregnancy
When flying while pregnant, be it first trimester, second trimester or third trimester travel, pregnant women should follow these tips.
- Don’t stay seated for long periods of time. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a risk to all air travelers and pregnant passengers have a higher risk. DVT occurs when blood clots form in your body, usually in the legs when seated for long periods of time. They can travel to the lungs, creating a life-threatening situation. Get up, walk around, and drink plenty of fluids. Ask your doctor whether you should wear compression stockings.
- Try to book an aisle seat. This will make it easier to stretch and walk. Plus, third trimester usually means constant peeing. Make life easier on yourself by not having to ask fellow passengers to let you out.
- Let a flight attendant know if you have any specific questions or concerns, especially if it’s earlier in the pregnancy and you aren’t showing. I had some lovely and caring flight attendants help me out with morning sickness in my first trimesters with ginger ale and crackers.
Call your OB if you feel that anything is wrong
Your obstetrician is there to help. If you have any strange symptoms, are concerned about something, or just feel that something may be wrong, call and ask. It is important not to ignore anything, especially while far from home. If you are admitted to the hospital, be sure to call your obstetrician. It keeps your doctor in the loop and many insurance companies require notification by your referring physician for emergency room & hospital visits.
Take care of yourself
Stop and rest if you feel tired. Drink plenty of water and eat healthy. The better you care for yourself on the road, the easier third trimester travel will be.
Follow your airline’s rules for third trimester flying
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant women stop flying at 36 weeks. If you are showing signs of pre-term labor, premature rupture of membranes or are carrying multiples, your doctor may recommend you stop flying sooner.
To avoid in-flight births, most airlines have rules that deny pregnant women boarding in certain circumstances. Follow them. The draw of free airline tickets for life if you name your baby Spirit may be strong, but resist.
Air Canada allows flying through the 36th week of pregnancy if you’ve had a healthy pregnancy with no history of premature labor.
Due within 4 weeks and traveling domestically? You’ll need a doctor’s certificate saying you are in good health and fit to fly. Then you’re clear until you get to within 7 days of your due date. Once you’re within 7 days of your due date, you’ll need to have medical forms filled out and go through a special assistance coordinator to be cleared to fly.
For international travel (or travel over water like Hawaii) you’re fine until you’re within 4 weeks of your due date. At that point you’ll need a doctor’s note stating that you’ve been examined (dating within 48 hours) and are fit to fly. You will also need to be cleared by the special assistance coordinator.
No restrictions on third trimester flying. No medical certificate required.
After your 35th week of pregnancy you can fly by showing a medical certificate or by executing a release of responsibility. Frontier really ups the ante with this legalese. You accept all risks if you choose to fly pregnant with them.
“For Frontier flights, passengers who are pregnant are urged to consult with their doctor on whether it is safe to travel by air, including with due consideration to the possibility of turbulence, cabin pressurization, significantly increased risk of deep vein thrombosis associated with pregnancy, and lack of ready access to medical care. This is particularly important for women in their ninth month of pregnancy, who are urged to obtain an examination from their physician shortly before flying to confirm air travel will be safe. Women with a history of complications or premature delivery should not fly if pregnant. By traveling with Frontier, pregnant women acknowledge and accept these risks.”
JetBlue’s pregnant passenger policy doesn’t allow for travel within 7 days of your expected delivery date UNLESS you have a note from your doctor dated within the last 72 hours. The letter needs to state that the doctor has deemed you fit for travel and it needs to include the dates of travel and destination. Your flight must occur before your due date.
No restrictions on third trimester flying, but the company advises pregnant women in their 8th month be examined by a doctor before traveling. If you deliver on this low-cost airline where everything is an upcharge, will the company will charge your newborn for the extra seat?
Southwest recommends against air travel beginning at the beginning of the 38th week of pregnancy.
Once you enter 36 weeks of pregnancy you will need to travel with TWO copies of an obstetrician’s certificate. It needs to be dated within 72 hours of your departure and state that you have been examined and are physically fit to travel. It needs to have your travel dates on it and your return flight cannot be after your due date. Be sure your physician states your expected delivery date on the letter. Don’t forget the two copies because the original will go to the representative at check-in and you will need the second copy for your return flight and to show flight attendants if requested.
Have you flown in your 3rd trimester? Any tips to add?