While many will tell you to be as cautious as possible during your pregnancy, it doesn’t mean you can’t go on a short trip to relax, have a babymoon, visit family, or travel for work. All it requires is a little bit of homework and prep to be well on your way to traveling while you’re pregnant.
First things first. Be sure to inform your healthcare provider that you are planning to travel and get a thumbs-up. They’re only likely to discourage you from traveling if you have any health complications such as diabetes, heart or respiratory conditions, or severe anemia. Pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes or incompetent cervix might also keep you from getting the go-ahead. If you are carrying multiples, your healthcare provider may advise that you don’t travel after the 20th to 24th week.
The second trimester is usually the best time to travel. Your morning sickness and initial exhaustion from the first trimester have usually reduced by now. The last trimester is too risky, as your doctor would rather you be as close to home as possible. This way, you can get medical attention as quickly and as best as possible in case your baby decides to make an early debut or there’s a complication. This is also why many airlines and cruise lines don’t board pregnant women past week 36 and week 24, respectively, as they don’t have the resources to best assist you.
Tips For Traveling While Pregnant
Now, regardless of the mode of travel, here are some general tips to help you be extra prepared for when you’re traveling while pregnant:
1. Always wear your seat belt. This is the easiest and best safety measure out there.
2. Traveling means you would be seated for extended periods which can cause Deep Vein Thrombosis. But don’t worry! It can be easily prevented by:
- Stretching as much as you can as often as you can. For example, take advantage of the pit-stops during a road trip to stretch.
- Wearing loose-fitting clothes. Compression stockings are also a good idea but conditions such as diabetes could mean you can’t wear them. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider on this.
3. Drink plenty of water and keep some snacks on hand. Try to avoid gassy food and drinks, such as beans and sodas. It can cause discomfort, especially if you’re flying, as gas will expand in higher altitudes.
4. Verify what your health insurance covers and get some travel insurance.
5. Keep a copy of your medical records and your healthcare provider’s information on hand at all times.
6. Get something for your nausea from your doctor, as both flying and sea travel are easy triggers.
7. If you’re traveling internationally, here are some additional tips:
- Discuss with your healthcare provider about the cities you will be traveling to. Confirm if you need any vaccinations.
- Once there, make sure to drink bottled water and pasteurized milk, consume cooked fruits and vegetables, and only eat meat and fish that have been thoroughly cooked. This will minimize diarrhea and food poisoning.
- Register with the embassy or consulate of your home country so that you can get help during an emergency.
- If you like, get yourself a GP or OB/GYN at your destination as a back-up.
Tips For Different Modes Of Travel
If you’re traveling by car
- As a passenger, keep your feet elevated. As a driver, be sure to take turns with another driver. Keep the time you would be driving as short as possible. If you absolutely have to, don’t drive for longer than five to six hours at one go.
- Fasten the seatbelt such that it goes between your breasts and crosses below your belly. Don’t place it over your belly.
- Make sure your airbags are turned on. Your concerns are understandable, but turning it on would be in the best interest of you and your baby.
- Keep your seat as far from the dashboard as possible (as long as your feet can still reach the pedals!)
- Traveling by bus or train could be a little trickier. Be sure to hold on to rails or seats when you’re walking around to stretch or go to the restroom.
If you’re traveling by plane
- Check with the airline first on the cutoff period. While 36 weeks or 8 months is the general rule of thumb, it’s not a standardized measure across airlines.
- Try getting an aisle seat so that you can get up and go to the restroom at your convenience. It also gives you some room to stretch out your legs.
- Be sure to hold on to the backs of seats when you’re walking, as sudden turbulence can knock you off balance.
- Be sure to inform a flight attendant if you are feeling unbearably sick or uncomfortable. Don’t be a hero and try to tough it out!
If you’re traveling by cruise/ship
- Similar to air travel, check with the cruise line on the cutoff period.
- Seasickness is a common experience for those traveling by sea. So if you’re still experiencing morning sickness, this could increase it or bring back any that has already passed. Be sure to get something from your doctor to prevent it.
- Verify that the ship has passed the CDC health inspection.
- Check that the places where the cruise ports have food and activities that are pregnancy-friendly.
As a measure of caution, be sure to get medical attention right away if you notice any of the following during your travel:
- Unbearable headaches
- Sudden changes or problems in your vision
- Pain or cramps in your stomach region
- Vaginal bleeding
- If your water breaks
- Pain or swelling in your legs
Be sure to stay calm, relax, and enjoy your travel as much as possible. Do as much as you can on your end to minimize the stress that comes with traveling (e.g., make sure your transfers have plenty of time in between, get to the airport as early as possible). Don’t be shy to ask for help if you need it. There’s no shame in doing what is best for you and your baby. Safe travels!