Lots of articles I read said that flying during the first trimester is generally not recommended because it’s not a pleasant thing to do if you’re deep in the throes of morning sickness. But for some women, like myself, who travel for work or have commitments that can’t be changed, travelling during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is something that can’t be avoided. In fact, with a bit of planning, you may even enjoy it!
Despite suffering from crippling morning sickness in the early weeks of my pregnancy, I ended up taking 12 flights (for business and pleasure) while pregnant, 6 of which were in the first 12 weeks. Timing, it turns out, can be everything, as some of those flights were a lot more challenging than others.
I discovered I was pregnant the day before I flew from Melbourne to London to join a 2 week blog trip cruising around Europe. While it was still early days on the way out and I felt fairly normal, I was 7-8 weeks pregnant on the way home and it was a whole other ballgame.
So, for anyone planning to travel during your first trimester, here are some things I learned about flying while pregnant and coping with morning sickness on flights.
(Note: This article contains some affiliate links – please find the full disclosure for further details.)
Tips for flying in early pregnancy & dealing with morning sickness
Pack your own barf bags
I learned in my first trimester that you never quite know when ‘morning’ sickness might strike. Although you’ll likely find an air sickness bag in your seat pocket on the plane, it was all the stages between leaving the house and getting on the plane that filled me with anxiety.
If you think you might suffer with morning sickness while flying, pack your own barf bags and not only will you never get caught short (imagine feeling the need to vomit at passport control!) but also just knowing they are at hand when you need them can help settle an anxious mind.
I didn’t have time to order these ones online so stashed paper prescription bags from Boots that the pharmacist kindly offered me into my hand luggage instead!
Pack your own snacks – lots of them!
My sensitive belly could stomach only the simplest of foods during the first trimester so I knew an airline meal probably wasn’t going to be palatable.
Instead, I ate what I could at the airport before boarding and packed a lot of dry snacks – crackers, cereal bars, fruit, nuts, crisps, herbal tea, biscuits etc.
I recommend packing more than you need because, if you end up with any delays or are transiting and find you have a long way to walk between flights, you’ll want to have sustenance to hand.
Thinking ahead to flying with children? Find some great tips for travelling with car seats.
Our first leg from London to Melbourne was with Emirates and I loved that they had a separate boarding area for pregnant women. (Along with families and passengers needing assistance).
It was a long walk to the gate and by the time I got there I just wanted to put my head between my legs and try not to vomit. The general gate area was packed so when I saw the section for pregnant women I said a hallelujah and hid in the corner until I felt better.
They also let these passengers board early so I could get settled without too much jostling from others while boarding. I’m not sure what policy other airlines have but it’s worth asking if they’ll let you get on early, even if it’s just to wrestle with the flight socks before other passengers join your row!
Tell the crew
Speaking of crew, I flew one leg of the London to Melbourne journey with Emirates and one with Qantas and the crew on both flights were great at looking out for me once I warned them I was a little nauseas from morning sickness.
They refilled the water bottle I’d had to empty at Dubai Airport and double checked I was good throughout the flight too.
On one flight they were also kind enough to reseat me in an emptier row so I could put my feet up and access the bathroom more easily. I didn’t make any of these requests but I was travelling alone and I think they could tell I was a little nervous so were sweet to do what they could to make me feel more comfortable.
Sleep through the meal service
On the airplane, as predicted, not only did I find the idea of the airline meal unpalatable but just the smell of the food being prepared made me heave. (Not to be too graphic but my super sensitive nostrils could smell both the loos and food being prepared in the galley from rows away and when meal service started it smelt to me like they were handing out dirty nappies!)
As I’d already eaten, I let the crew know I wanted to sleep through the meal (Emirates have a handy sticker system you place on the headrest) and I did my best to nod off and not gag so I wouldn’t put others off their dinner.
Read also: How to sleep on a plane in economy class
Wrap yourself up in good smells
I usually travel with a light lavender scented balm or pillow spray to help me sleep on planes but found these products came in extra handy for dealing with the smells of the plane during pregnancy. As mentioned, I was super sensitive to the smell of the meals but also other passengers, including the bare feet that turned up on my armrest. (Yes, I know. Lovely.)
My usual This Works Pillow Spray was a little too heavy so I used a subtle linen mist instead to spritz the airline blanket and also my travel shawl, which I ended up wrapping around my head and face when I was really struggling with mingling odours. (You got to do what you got to do!)
You can also try the baby version of the This Works Pillow Spray for a more subtle scent.
Pack a refillable water bottle & hydration tablets
To fend off dehydration I sipped as much water as I could and mixed in an effervescent electrolyte tablet to drink just before landing. I checked with my doctor that it was safe to consume electrolyte drinks before doing so and it’s something she recommended I take after vomiting as well as when flying in general.
It made me feel more alert when it came time to transfer planes and made the taste of the tap water a little more pleasant too.
Pack nausea relief
I tried a lot of the traditional morning sickness remedies you read about and sadly none of them worked for me. I suffered with all day pregnancy sickness for almost 17 weeks but not everyone will have the same experience. You might find some anti-nausea medicine from your doctor or natural ginger tablets do the trick for you.
I found the prescription medication Maxalon a little help once I got back home but obviously couldn’t see my doctor until I’d survived the flight back home to Oz. Check with your doctor before flying if you have any concerns or questions.
The only thing that did help me manage (although who knows if it was the placebo effect!) were the travel/seasickness bands that I picked up in Boots. You can find similar here.
Make yourself comfortable
If you’re flying business class or with a reputable airline that provide comfy pillows or blankets then lucky you won’t have to consider the following. If, however, you’re unsure of how comfortable the seats will be on your flight you might want to consider adding a few items to your hand luggage that will make you feel more comfortable.
First thing to consider is a travel pillow. Sleep is life in the first trimester so if you plan to snooze through the flight consider investing in a Trtl pillow, which is regularly reviewed as the best travel pillow on the market.
If back pain is an issue, then consider a lumbar pillow to support your back. Compression or flight socks are a good idea to wear on flights of 3 hours or more to prevent against DVT to and (if you can fit all this in your bag!) you could even prop your feet up on your own foot hammock.
(Note: some aircraft have foot hammocks attached to the seats so google your aircraft before buying anything unnecessarily.)
Travel essentials for flying during pregnancy
Here’s where you can buy everything I’ve mentioned in my post, plus a few extra items that helped me on the other flights I took during pregnancy.
- This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
- This Works Baby Sleep Pillow Spray
- Trtl Neck Pillow
- Cozychic Lite Travel Shawl
- Sea Band wristband for natural nausea relief
- Memory foam lumbar pillow
- Vomit/barf bags
- Premium grade flight socks
Post updated: Feb 2020
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