Travelling when you are pregnant

Written by    Last updated: September 12, 2007

Travel during pregnancy is safe for most women provided there are no obvious complications. However, whatever your travel plans are, it is wise to discuss them first with your doctor or midwife. Travel to certain countries may not be recommended whilst you are pregnant…Travelling when you are pregnant

There’s no reason why you have to stay glued to your home for the duration of your pregnancy, providing you take the necessary health precautions…

Is it safe to travel?

Travel during pregnancy is safe for most women provided there are no obvious complications. However, whatever your travel plans are, it is wise to discuss them first with your doctor or midwife. Travel to certain countries may not be recommended whilst you are pregnant, as certain immunisations and medications are harmful to the developing foetus. It is generally considered that the safest and most comfortable time for you to travel is during the second trimester. Morning sickness is usually over and, after the first three months, the risk of miscarriage is significantly lower. During the third trimester you may feel less comfortable because of your size, plus you run the risk of going into early labour. Most airlines and insurance companies have regulations dictating that a pregnant woman should not fly after weeks 35/36 in case she goes into labour. So you should ensure that any travel plans are concluded by this time. Also, it is important that you check that you are adequately insured for prenatal emergencies or delivery in a foreign country. Some travel firms even recommend evacuation insurance for travel to remote areas. Follow commonsense guidelines, not only while you are travelling, but also for the duration of your stay.

Vaccinations

Some countries require that people be vaccinated against certain diseases before they travel there. Requirements for immunisation vary, so it is important to find out which ones are needed for the countries you plan to visit. There are many high‐risk areas in the world that pregnant women should simply avoid as some of the normal preventative measures are not recommended during pregnancy. Some vaccines can be given safely to pregnant women, although live vaccines should be avoided as they can cause disease in your developing baby. You need to discuss your requirements with a doctor. Malaria during pregnancy is especially dangerous to both mother and child as it produces anaemia and flu‐like symptoms and can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, small babies and other problems. Most authorities recommend that pregnant women avoid non‐essential travel to affected areas during pregnancy as no drug treatment fully protects against Malaria. However, a drug called Chloroquine can help to prevent and treat the disease and is safe to use in pregnancy. You must start taking it before you travel and keep taking it for a few weeks after returning home.

General health care

All travellers abroad should take precautions and care to avoid illness, but it is particularly important when you are pregnant. This does not mean that you should spend all of your time lying in the shade drinking bottled water, but extra care will be required for the health of yourself and your baby.

  • Arrange to have an antenatal check‐up before you go.
  • Take a copy of your maternity records with you.
  • Drink only bottled water or soft drinks. Iodine used to purify water may not be safe for the foetus.
  • Do not have ice in your drinks.
  • Avoid fresh fruits and vegetable unless they have been cooked or peeled.
  • Stay away from foods such as pâté and soft cheeses, such as Brie and Camembert. This will protect you from Listerosis, a disease, which causes a minor feverish illness in the mother, but can be fatal to the developing baby.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat. It can contain organisms that cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that can harm the foetus.
  • Ensure that any milk you drink is pasteurised.
  • If you get diarrhoea, drink plenty of bottled water. Do not take any medication without consulting a doctor.
  • Do not take any medicine without consulting a doctor first.

Travelling in comfort

Whatever form of transport you use it is important that you are as comfortable as possible, particularly on long journeys. By following a few simple tips you can help yourself to make your trip a pleasure rather than a pain.

  • Maintain an appropriate sitting position by putting a pillow in the small of your back; rest your feet on something so that your thighs are off the seat and avoid crossing your legs as it interferes with circulation and puts uneven strain on other parts of the body.
  • Walk around at least every hour or so. This will decrease swelling and help make you more comfortable.
  • Try to get an aisle seat so that you can have more space and can get to the bathroom easily.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and loose, cotton clothing.
  • Take some crackers or snacks with you to help prevent nausea.
  • The air in a plane is very drying and a glass of liquid every hour will help maintain your body fluids. Avoid fizzy drinks because when cabin air pressure goes down, any gas in your stomach will expand by as much as 20% making you feel bloated.

Travelling by road

Sitting in a car or coach for hours on end is wearing even when you are not pregnant. It is best to aim for no more than five or six hours travel per day, with a stop every hour or so to stretch your legs.

Belting up

Many women are concerned that a seat belt will harm their unborn baby in the event of the car stopping quickly or being involved in a collision. However, it is always safer for both you and your baby to wear a seat belt than not to wear one. If you are safe, then so is your baby. Unless you are unlucky enough to be seriously injured, it is unlikely that your baby will be harmed. The foetus is cushioned in a fluid filled sac inside the uterus, which is further protected by muscles, organs and bones. However, if you are involved in even a minor accident it is vital that you get properly checked over by a doctor. For the best protection you should wear a lap‐shoulder seat belt every time you travel in a car. Place the lap belt under your abdomen and across your upper thighs so that it fits as comfortably as possible. Put the shoulder strap between your breasts and, if necessary, across your seat to prevent it rubbing your neck. A seat belt worn too loose or too high on the abdomen can cause broken ribs or injury to the stomach in the event of an accident. Air bags are not an alternative to seat belts but provide additional protection. You should still wear a seat belt. The gas used to inflate the bags is harmless.

Holiday fun

Staying active during your pregnancy can help you stay healthy so still enjoy some of the activities available to you while you are on holiday, while being sensible about what you do. Walking is one of the best exercises for pregnant women and sightseeing usually means plenty of this. Wear low‐heeled, comfortable shoes and walk as much as you like, until you tire. Swimming provides all over exercise, which is great for pregnant women as the buoyancy of the water gives plenty of support. However, there are some activities that are potentially very harmful to you and your baby. Apart from the obvious activities, such as bungee jumping and parasailing, other not so obvious sports should be avoided. Scuba diving can cause decompression sickness in the foetus and water skiing can force water into the cervix. Many doctors also think that skiing on snow is too risky. Even saunas and hot tubs should not be used as they raise the core body temperature too much.

Despite all the extra care you take while you are on holiday, remember, you are there to relax and enjoy yourself. It will also probably be the last break you have as a couple for many years, so make the most of it.

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