For most women, it is safe to travel during pregnancy. If you are not experiencing any complications, there is no reason to delay taking a trip. But travel recommendations may vary, depending on the stage of pregnancy, general state of health and any problems during pregnancy. All pregnant women should have a prenatal examination before traveling and follow their obstetrician’s recommendations.
The best time for most pregnant women to travel is during the second trimester, weeks 14–28. By then, energy levels return, any morning sickness is usually over and it is still easy to move around well. It can be more difficult to get comfortable after the 28th week. Whether you travel by plane, train, automobile or ship, consider the length of travel time, your comfort and your safety. The fastest mode of travel is usually the best.
When booking a flight, ask about the airline’s policies regarding pregnancy and flying. Some airlines require you to complete medical forms. Domestic travel is usually permitted until week 36, and international travel may be permitted until weeks 32–35, depending on the airline. The TSA states that airport security and advanced imaging technology screening are safe for all passengers, including children, pregnant women and individuals with medical implants. You can request alternative screening (to include a thorough pat-down) and a private area for that procedure.
In your carry-on bag or purse, pack a list of your obstetrician’s contact information, your delivery date, blood type, past medical history, current health record and health insurance information. Carry a list of prescribed medications including prenatal vitamins and over-the-counter medications approved by your obstetrician, along with your pharmacy name and phone number. Bring enough of your medications for your trip plus five additional days’ worth in case of travel delays. If you lose your medication, your home pharmacy can transfer the prescription to a pharmacy at your destination.
Consider buying travel insurance to cover tickets and other costs that may not be refundable should you need to cancel your trip due to pregnancy problems. If you buy medical evacuation insurance, make sure pregnancy is covered so you can be transported to the medical center of your choice at home. Get the appropriate vaccinations before traveling, such as the flu and H1N1 vaccine, and avoid travel to areas where you may come in contact with malaria or tuberculosis.
Always wear a seat belt in the car or on a plane. The seat belt should sit under your abdomen and across the tops of your thighs. If the seat belt on a plane does not fit, ask for an extension. Wear your seat belt even if your car has an air bag, and keep the air bag turned on. Both you and your baby are more likely to survive a car crash if you are buckled in.
During a car trip, limit driving or riding to six hours each day. To avoid getting lost and prolonging the trip, use a car with GPS navigation or load a GPS app onto your cell phone (available for free or a low monthly fee). Stop at least every two hours to use the bathroom and walk around. This will help prevent the development of a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, a blood clot in the leg.
Pregnancy increases your risk for a DVT. A blood clot can travel to any part of the body and cause a heart attack, pulmonary embolism or stroke. Studies have shown that any type of travel lasting more than four hours doubles your risk for a DVT. Whatever your mode of travel, drink plenty of fluids; dehydration slows circulation and can cause clots. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Get up, walk around and stretch your legs every two hours. Do leg stretches and ankle pumps in your seat every 30 minutes. An aisle seat makes it easier to get up and stretch; if you are a frequent flyer, use your miles to upgrade to business or first class for additional leg room.
Low cabin pressures and cosmic radiation at high altitudes do not cause problems for occasional travelers. If you are a frequent flyer, check with your doctor about how long it is safe for you to fly while pregnant. Try to avoid gas-producing foods and carbonated drinks before and during your flight; gas can expand in low cabin pressure and cause discomfort. If you are prone to nausea, your doctor can prescribe anti-nausea medication.
If you need an obstetrician at your destination, get assistance from the hotel concierge or the U.S. Embassy, if you are overseas. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides a list of U.S. obstetricians; the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers has a worldwide directory.
Handle with Care
Wear comfortable slip-on shoes and layers of light clothing
Drink plenty of water or juice
Eat regular meals to boost energy
Eat fiber to avoid constipation
Alternate travel activities with periods of rest
Book a hotel room with a large bed in which to stretch out
Pack lightly so your luggage is not heavy
Use lightweight luggage with spinner wheels
Ask for assistance when you need it
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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