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What to Know When Traveling While Pregnant

December 12, 2018

The average pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks—that’s approximately 10 months. It’s not unusual that you might need to travel within that time—especially during the holidays. One of the best strategies is to make your travel plans in advance so you and your baby stay comfortable and safe.

Is it Safe to Travel During Pregnancy?

When planning a trip, you should first ask your obstetrician: Is it safe to travel? For many women, the answer is yes. Pregnant woman in airportIf you have a low-risk pregnancy, there may not be any concern with being away from your regular doctor or being subjected to the additional stress that traveling can bring.

However, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, the answer is not so simple. If you have preterm labor, bleeding, complications or an illness that makes you high-risk, your doctor may advise you to stay home in case you need medical attention or need to deliver early. But, if you’re deemed high-risk because of something like advanced maternal age, traveling may not be a problem.

When Can I Travel?

Assuming a low-risk pregnancy, most women can travel until early in the third trimester. Since morning sickness usually eases by the second trimester, you may find these mid-pregnancy months to be the most comfortable when you’re on the go. During the third trimester, complications and preterm labor are more likely, increasing your risk while you’re away.

Caution: If you are flying after your 24th week, make sure your travel destination is one you wouldn’t mind staying in if you need medical attention, bed rest or if your baby comes early.

While traveling in the mid to late part of your third trimester is not recommended, sometimes emergencies happen. Be sure to review your airline’s policy on traveling while pregnant. Some airlines require you have a doctor’s note stating that you have been examined recently and are cleared to fly, while others will not let you board the plane within a certain timeframe of your due date.

Assuming a low-risk pregnancy, most women can travel until early in the third trimester.

Are There Better (or Worse) Methods of Travel?

While a cruise might sound delightful, it is one type of travel pregnant women should avoid after their 24th week. It is difficult to get to a hospital while out at sea if you have a medical emergency. All other methods of transportation have their positives and negatives for a pregnant traveler. A plane is faster, but you may need to be strapped in your seat for most of the journey. A road trip can take longer, but you have the flexibility to stop and stretch as needed. A train takes longer than a plane, but also gives you more opportunity to move around. Consider your needs, what makes you most comfortable and your travel time as you decide which mode of transportation to take.

Tips on Preparing to Travel

  • Whether traveling by plane, train, bus or car, move your legs frequently to avoid blood clots. If you’re in a plane, train or bus, and it is safe to get up and move about, take short walks to keep blood flowing, but remember that turbulence or rough roads can affect your balance. Your shifting weight can add instability, so take extra care.
  • Be sure to take drinks and healthy snacks on your trip. On a plane, take an empty refillable bottle in your carry on, and once you’ve passed security, keep it filled with water to stay hydrated. Travel delays, whether automobile traffic or delayed flights, can leave you needing nourishment. Pack portable foods made of proteins or complex carbohydrates.
  • Keep medications nearby. Pack them in your carry-on bag instead of in your checked luggage. Consult your doctor if you typically take medicine while traveling, such as anxiolytics or Dramamine, which typically are not recommended to take during pregnancy. Your doctor can suggest alternatives, such as wristbands to help with motion sickness.
  • Avoid travel to areas with health dangers that may put you and your baby at risk, such as areas known for having Zika, a virus that can cause severe brain defects in fetuses and in babies born to infected mothers.
  • When traveling internationally, ensure food and water are safe. Eat cooked meals, versus raw foods like sushi, and drink bottled water instead of tap water if you’re unsure. Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables that may have been rinsed in tap water.
  • Although it may be tempting to try to fit every activity into your schedule, it's important to listen to your body so you don’t become overly tired. Feel free to slow down, schedule a daily nap, and perhaps even ask relatives to meet you at one person’s house, or schedule a meeting so that clients come to you instead of you having to visit multiple locations.

Many women can travel while pregnant. But whether it is for work, pleasure or something in between, the key is to take precautions, plan ahead, and coordinate with your doctor to ensure you and your baby have a safe and healthy trip.

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