Traveling While Pregnant: What Is and Isn’t Allowed

Jan 31, 2014

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Today a fellow BoardingArea blogger, Angelina from Just Another Points Traveler, did an interesting guest post for another family friendly blog that I like,  The topic of the day was traveling while pregnant, and most specifically the policy that many cruise lines have to not allow a pregnant woman to cruise beginning in their 24th week of pregnancy.  Just Another Points Traveler is due to give birth to her first little traveler any day (yay!), so it was great to get her take on traveling while pregnant.  I love to read anything related to family travel that I come across, so I’m very glad this topic is being discussed.

The point of view of her post was that the rule that many cruise lines have, including Disney Cruises, to not allow any woman who will hit her 24th week of pregnancy or beyond while at sea to board was that she was “shocked that such a “family-friendly” company would have such policy in place”.  I love hearing different opinions on important topics, but I have to respectfully disagree.

Even though many women may not really even look that pregnant yet at 24 weeks (though I did!), cutting off travel for pregnant women on a cruise at 24 weeks is likely not an arbitrary date pulled from a hat. As I am sure most parents (and probably many non-parents) reading this already know, the 24th week of pregnancy is sometimes referred to as reaching “viability” for the unborn baby.  More or less, this is about the age where if the child is born prematurely it has a shot at survival, if (and only if) immediate and quality NICU care is available.  The road for a child born at 24 weeks will not be quick, easy or certain, but there is a decent shot at a relatively normal life with the appropriate medical support.

22 weeks pregnant
22 weeks pregnant with Little C

However, if a woman in her 24th, 26th, 28th week, etc. were to suddenly have complications and potentially deliver at sea, that baby would not have the same shot at survival.  I am not a “cruiser”, but I do know that cruise ships do not have the same levels of medical support available that you would find in an advanced hospital.  To be clear, I did not stop traveling when I was pregnant.  I went to Yellowstone early on, I went to Vegas, went to the beach, I even flew a 40 minute flight about a month before I was due to get to a funeral (doc and I decided a 40 minute flight was better than 4 hours in the car each way).  I wasn’t a mom-to-be that always stuck close to home, but I know I would never be able to live with myself if I chose to voluntarily travel somewhere that didn’t have the best medical care possible relatively close by and something happened, especially once I reached the point in my pregnancy where my unborn child might be able to live if they were born.

24 weeks pregnant
Anniversary dinner in Vegas at 24 weeks pregnant with C

Everyone is different, but for me, certainly passed 24 weeks that would mean no time in the middle of the ocean, in a country that didn’t have hospitals at least up to par with the US, or to remote locations that were hours away from the nearest hospital.  If I were to have a second child, I wouldn’t just sit on my couch for 9 months waiting for my baby to be born (unless I was put on bed-rest), but the deciding factor in where I would and would not go would be where is safe for my baby, not where I thought would be fun for me.  I love to travel, but I’m 100% fine with crossing certain kinds of trips and destinations off the list for a few months to ensure the best possible outcome for my child.  I’m not a person that lives in fear, but the reality is you never know when a “normal” pregnancy will turn into a very early delivery.  I’ve just seen it happen to too many of my friends.

Enjoying my lemonade pregnant at Disney World
Enjoying my lemonade pregnant in “Germany” at Disney World

If you are curious about the policies that a few airlines have regarding traveling while pregnant, here is a sampling.  As you will see, the US based airlines in general have more lax policies than the international airlines sampled.

United Airlines:

Passengers traveling in their ninth month of pregnancy must have an obstetrician’s certificate dated within 24 to 72 hours prior to their flight departure.

American Airlines:
For domestic flights under five hours, travel is not permitted within seven days before and after your delivery date. If you should need to travel within seven days before or after delivery, a medical certificate is required as well as clearance from our Special Assistance Coordinators.  For international travel or any flights over the water, travel is not advised within 30 days of the due date, unless you are examined by an obstetrician within 48 hours of outbound departure and certified in writing as medically stable for flight. Travel within 10 days of the due date for International travel must have clearance from our Special Assistance Coordinators. Travel within 7 days after delivery requires clearance as well.

Southwest Airlines:

Female Customers at any stage of pregnancy should consult with their physicians prior to air travel. Southwest Airlines recommends against air travel beginning at the 38th week of pregnancy. Depending on their physical condition, strength, and agility, pregnant women may, in some cases, be asked not to sit in the emergency exit row.


Expectant mothers with complication-free pregnancies can fly with Lufthansa until the end of the 36th week of pregnancy or up to four weeks before their expected due date without a medical certificate from a gynecologist. However, we recommend that expectant mothers beyond the 28th week of their pregnancies carry a current letter from a physician which includes the following:

  • confirmation that the pregnancy is progressing without complications
  • the expected due date
  • the doctor should expressly state that the patient’s pregnancy does not prevent her from flying.

Singapore Airlines:

For uncomplicated single pregnancies, we restrict expectant mothers from travelling beyond the 36th week of pregnancy (calculated based on the expected date of delivery).  For uncomplicated multiple pregnancies, we restrict expectant mothers from travelling beyond the 32nd week of pregnancy (calculated based on the expected date of delivery).  For uncomplicated single pregnancies between 29 weeks and 36 weeks of pregnancy, expectant mothers are required to provide a medical certificate stating the following: (1) fitness to travel, (2) number of weeks of pregnancy and (3) estimated date of delivery. The certificate should be dated within ten days of the date of the first flight exceeding 28 weeks of pregnancy. This certificate will have to be presented at check-in when requested.

For uncomplicated multiple pregnancies, you need to present the medical certificate if you are travelling between the 29th and 32nd week of pregnancy (calculated based on the expected date of delivery).  You need not present any medical certificate if you are travelling within the 28th week of pregnancy (calculated based on the expected date of delivery). But if any of your return flight exceeds 28 weeks of pregnancy, you will need to present a medical certificate.

It makes perfect sense to me that a cruise line would not accept a pregnant woman past 24 weeks as a passenger, but I know that not everyone shares that sentiment.  What are your thoughts about traveling while pregnant?  Where would you/did you go, and where would you not go?

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