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Considering traveling while you’re pregnant?

July 21, 2014

"Summer is a big time for travel and you don’t want your pregnancy to slow you down any more than it has to," said Dr. Katharine O. White, Chief, General Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baystate Medical Center.

Timing is everything.

Common Concerns

"Early on in your pregnancy it is normally safe to travel, as long as your doctor is aware of your plans and has placed no restrictions on your travel for medical reasons. Car, train, bus, airplane, they are all okay," Dr. White said.

"Be sure to take rest breaks when traveling by car so that you can get out in a safe area to stretch. Even if your body doesn’t feel cramped from being in the car, your bladder may tell you it’s time to stop," she added.

Dr. White noted that while blood clots are always a risk when pregnant, the risk can become greater when traveling by air.

"On long flights, you will want to get up and walk up and down the aisle to get the blood circulating. Either standing next to your seat and going up and down on your toes, or exercising your calves by pointing your toes back and forth while sitting in your seat, can be helpful to keep the flood flowing," she said.

Best time to travel

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the best time to travel is probably the middle of your pregnancy between weeks 14 and 28. Most common pregnancy emergencies usually happen in the first and third trimesters. After 28 weeks, it may be harder to move around or sit for long periods of time.

"Later in your pregnancy, you may seriously want to consider not traveling far, especially if you are at risk of complications, in particular, pre-term delivery when you can end up in an unknown hospital," Dr. White said. "If there is a need to travel later in your pregnancy, and your doctor says it is okay, be sure to bring along copies of your prenatal records just in case you need to seek medical attention. Your records will provide these doctors with much needed information – such as recent ultrasounds and lab work – so that they don’t have to guess about your prior care and conditions."

Also, many airlines will not allow pregnant women to travel in the last month of pregnancy.

"Check with your airline carrier for their policies should the need arise for emergency travel," Dr. White said.

Additional travel tips from ACOG

  • When traveling by air – Book an aisle seat so that it is easy to get up; avoid gas producing foods and carbonated drinks before your flight; wear your seatbelt at all times, and it should be belted low on the hipbones, below your belly; if you are prone to nausea, your health care provider may be able to prescribe anti-nausea medication.
  • When traveling by ship – Ask your health care provider about which medications are safe for you to carry along to calm seasickness. Seasickness bands are useful for some people, although there is little scientific evidence that they work. These bands use acupressure to help ward off an upset stomach. Another concern for cruise ship passengers is norovirus infection. Noroviruses are a group of viruses that can cause severe nausea and vomiting for one to two days. They are very contagious and can spread rapidly through cruise ships. People can become infected by eating food, drinking liquids, or touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus. Before you book a cruise, you may want to check whether your ship has passed a health and safety inspection conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • When traveling out of the country – If you are planning a trip out of the county, your health care provider can help you to decide if travel outside the U.S. is safe for you and advise you about what steps to take before your trip. The CDC also is a good resource for travel alerts, safety tips, and up-to-date vaccination facts for many countries. While are you pregnant, you should not travel to areas where there is risk of malaria, including Africa, Central and South America, and Asia.
  • When drinking water while out of the country – The safest water to drink is tap water that has been boiled for one minute (three minutes at altitudes higher than 6,000 feet). Bottled water is safer than unboiled tap water, but because there are no standards for bottled water, there is no guarantee that it is free of germs that can cause illness. Carbonated beverage and drinks made with boiled water are safe to drink. Do not put ice made from unboiled water in your drinks. Do no drink out of glasses that may have been washed in unboiled water. Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables, unless they have been cooked or if you have peeled them yourself. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or fish.

"Once you have a newborn at home, you won’t be getting out much. So, if you’re feeling up to it, take this time to travel to new places or to see family and friends. Have some fun before your family grows by one," Dr. White said.