Below is our easy to use check-list of the restrictions on ferry travel when pregnant.

Things to Know Before You Travel

  • Restrictions on ferry travel when pregnant vary between operators. They may also depend on things such as the route and vessel type. Shorter routes usually have fewer restrictions. High speed ships often have tighter restrictions compared to  conventional ferries. Some operators have few restrictions, others won’t allow travel after a certain term (from around 32 weeks onwards). Some require a doctor’s certificate for travel. See our overview below for the restrictions of each operator.
  • Many operators request a doctor’s certificate if you are travelling after 28 weeks. A doctors certificate is usually something to state that you are fit to travel, and unlikely to give birth during the journey.
  • For longer journeys, or crossings that may involve rougher seas (such as North Sea crossings to Belgium, Holland or Denmark), it is wise to consult your doctor or midwife before you travel no matter what stage your pregnancy.
  • Make sure you have good travel insurance that covers any eventuality for the complete duration of your trip. Note that you may find it difficult to find comprehensive travel insurance late on in your pregnancy (often around 10 weeks before due date, although this varies).
  • Always be aware that the restrictions on ferry travel when pregnant apply to the date that you travel for both outward and return journeys, if applicable. Always make sure you will still comply with any travel restrictions for your return journey.

Ferry Operator Rules

Below we have tried to include a summary of the policy of each ferry operator, as well as links to their own specific terms and conditions pages. Please be aware that ferry operators may change their rules and it is therefore important to always check the specific “small print” of your ferry operator before you book.

Brittany Ferries

Brittany Ferries offer crossings on conventional and high speed ferries from Plymouth, Poole and Portsmouth to various destinations in France; St Malo, Cherbourg, Caen and Roscoff. Their rules for ferry travel when pregnant are:

  • 32 weeks and over – no travel allowed
  • 28 weeks and over – no travel on high speed sailings

See the Brittany Ferries official website for further information here.

Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries offer crossings from Holyhead to Dublin and Pembroke to Rosslare. Their rules for travel when pregnant are:

  • 32 weeks and over – no travel allowed
  • 28 to 31 weeks – doctors certificate required

See their full terms and conditions for travel whilst pregnant here

Condor Ferries

Condor offer ferry crossings from Poole or Portsmouth to the Channel Islands, and also Poole to St Malo in France. Some of their crossings are on their high speed ferries.

  • 28 weeks and over – Doctor’s certificate required
  • 34 weeks and over – No travel allowed

See their complete guidelines and rules here

DFDS Seaways

DFDS offer some short routes from Dover to Calais or Dunkirk, but also longer crossings from Harwich to Esbjerg (Denmark) and Newcastle to Amsterdam. Their FAQs state that they have no restrictions on ferry travel when pregnant.

  • No restrictions

DFDS point out that there are no doctors amongst their crew, and that proper precautions and travel insurance should be taken out. See the DFDS Seaways terms and conditions on their official website here

LD Lines

LD Lines were recently taken over by DFDS Seaways, but have continued to offer some routes under their own brand, including the new Poole to Santander route. This is a longer ferry crossings (26 hours) and therefore LD Lines have different advice and restrictions for pregnant travellers.

  • Recommend anyone less than 12 weeks pregnant to consult a doctor before travel
  • Anyone 28 weeks or over needs a doctors’ certificate

See the LD Lines FAQs page here for more information.

MyFerryLink

MyFerryLink are the new ferry operator offering services between Dover and Calais. In a similar way to DFDS, they have no restrictions on ferry travel when pregnant, but do poit out they have no specialist medical services on-board their ferries.

  • No restrictions

See the MyFerryLink FAQs page on their official website here

P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries offer a large choice of crossings from UK, which they separate into short sea, North Sea and Irish Sea.

Their short sea crossing is the Dover to Calais route. P&O’s North Sea crossing is Hull to Zeebrugge or Rotterdam. P&O’s Irish Ferries include the Liverpool to Dublin route and crossings to Northern Ireland.

Short Sea (Dover to Calais)

  • 38 weeks or more – certificate required

North Sea (Hull to Zeebrugge or Rotterdam)

  • 28 weeks or more – Doctor’s certificate required
  • 34 weeks or more – no travel allowed

Irish Sea (Liverpool to Dublin, and crossings to Northern Ireland)

  • 38 weeks or more – certificate required

P&O also reserve the right to refuse boarding or request a certificate in special circumstance. By “special circumstances” we assume they mean if you look heavily pregnant, about to give birth or in distress of some kind as a result of being pregnant.

See P&O’s full terms and conditions on their official website here.

Stena Line

Stena Line offer crossings Harwich to Hook of Holland, and from Holyhead to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, as well as crossing to Northern Ireland.

36 weeks or more – No travel allowed (34 weeks if pregnant with more than 1 baby)

Stena Line point out that under special circumstances, they have the right to refuse boarding or ask for a doctor’s certificate, whatever the term of your pregnancy. See their official website with terms and conditions here.

Ferry Travel When Pregnant: Is it Safe?

In general there are no problems travelling by ferry when you are pregnant. However, it is always advisable to check with your doctor or midwife before you book, particularly for any longer ferry crossings.

Each ferry operator is regulated by marine law and has formulated their policies towards passengers travelling when pregnant accordingly. That’s why many state that you should not travel by ferry beyond a certain term of your pregnancy. Some state this is after 32 weeks, others 38 weeks, depending on the crossing duration and vessel type.

However, so long as you adhere to the operator’s terms, ferry travel when pregnant should not present any problems. NHS guidance on travel when pregnant states:

With the proper precautions, and armed with information on when to travel, vaccinations and insurance, most women can travel safely well into their pregnancy. Wherever you go, find out what healthcare facilities are at your destination in case you require urgent medical attention. It’s a good idea to take your medical records with you so you can give doctors the relevant information if necessary.

ferry travel when pregnant

Longer Cruises When Pregnant

Cruises and mini cruises, although long in duration, might be considered a little differently to standard ferry crossings. Very often there will be a doctor as part of the crew of a cruise ship. This of course may vary between cruise operators, so of course always check which your travel operator.

Check Before You Book…

ferry travel during pregnancyIt’s fairly well known that there are some restrictions on flying when pregnant. The rules might depend on the airline or the particular journey – long haul flights are often viewed differently to short haul, for example. But but generally speaking, airlines have regulations or guidelines that usually apply to those travelling after week 28 of pregnancy.

But when it comes to ferry travel from the UK, it seems the rules and guidelines for travel when pregnant are less well known or at least less clear. For example there was the recent story of a pregnant woman who was refused boarding just 1 hour before departure on a ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth. Considering how many ferry journeys are made from UK every year, it’s important to make sure you know if you can travel or not when pregnant. However, you should also be aware that, even if you do adhere to their travel regulations, some operators still reserve the right to refuse boarding or request a certificate in special circumstances. By “special circumstances” we can only assume they mean if you look heavily pregnant, about to give birth or in distress of some kind as a result of being pregnant.

As suggested above, a major reason as to why many of us are confused over the rules for ferry travel when pregnant is that the rules, guidelines or regulations – call them what you will – are pretty confused themselves. Each ferry company has a different set of rules regarding travel when pregnant, and some of them even have different rules for the different routes they operate.

With this in mind, we wanted to offer the above summary of the rules and guidelines that may affect anyone who is pregnant and wishing to travel by ferry so that you can check before you make a booking.

Photo credits (1; 2)