Confused About Travelling While Pregnant?
You’re pregnant! Congratulations!
Having a baby is a hugely exciting and positive time in your life, but it’s also a concerning time regarding what you can and can’t do. It can all get a little bit confusing, and it’s important to know what to avoid. If you’re a keen traveler, you might be feeling a bit worried about continuing your jet-setting habit when you’re expecting, but the good news is that travel is perfectly safe, provided you adhere to certain precautions.
When I traveled in my last pregnancy to Langkawi for my ‘baby moon’ many were shocked and told me it was unsafe to fly. When I announced that in my current pregnancy that I planned to fly long haul to Europe the most common comment was ‘is that safe?’. Yes, yes it is safe. Let me explain.
We’re going to break this traveling while pregnant mystery down for you – but you should also consult your doctor, midwife or obstetrician so they can take into account your personal history and circumstances.
General Tips to Remember
You will be given maternity records to take with you wherever you go while you are pregnant, and you should take these with you when you’re traveling too. If you have a problem when you’re away from home, these records will tell the doctors in that particular location all about your pregnancy, any existing health issues you have, and this means that the matter can be dealt with much easier than if they’re going on guesswork.
Do a little research before you go about the medical care facilities where you’re going, and this will give you peace of mind.
Basically, it’s important to remember that travel is not a no-no during pregnancy, but you do need to cover a few more bases than you would have done otherwise – you have another little person to think about too, after all!
When You Can and Can’t Travel During Pregnancy
The early part of pregnancy is tiring and rather nauseous time, and for that reason, many women choose to avoid heading off into the sunset until the first 12 weeks have passed. I had no choice; I traveled when I was eight weeks pregnant, I just made sure I stayed hydrated on the plane, slept as much as possible – and carried my sick bag with me…just in case morning sickness struck me.
The natural risk of miscarriage is generally higher before the 12 weeks mark regardless of whether you’re jetting off or not. While there is no set ‘yes or no’ to this question, it’s really down to personal preference and how you feel overall when deciding to travel so early on in pregnancy.
The middle part of pregnancy, between the 4th and 6th month, is the general time when women feel fine about heading off somewhere exotic and provided there are no complications or issues with your pregnancy at that time; you can certainly enjoy a holiday!
In the final few weeks of pregnancy, usually after around 32 weeks, you’re likely to feel pretty tired and sitting for a length of time in a small space is likely to be rather uncomfortable. Some airlines won’t allow women to travel during the later stages of pregnancy – something we’re going to talk about a little more in our next section.
Air Travel During Pregnancy
This is probably the section you’re more interested in reading about!
Again, whether you can or can’t fly during pregnancy comes down to whether there are any complications with your pregnancy and how far along you are. There is no evidence to suggest that flying is harmful to your baby during pregnancy, but if you have any problems which have come to light, you should talk to your midwife or your doctor about it first. There are a few precautions you should take regardless of whether there are any issues with your pregnancy or not, and these include:
- Drink plenty of water during the flight – yes, you will need to pee more, but you should be used to that by this point – so try to get an aisle seat.
- Move around the cabin as often as you can, preferably every half an hour if possible – again get an asile seat.
- For flights which are mid or long haul, be sure wear support compression stockings, to reduce the risk of developing a DVT.
In terms of when you can and can’t fly during pregnancy, there are a few guidelines. We mentioned in our first section about many women not choosing to travel during the first 12 weeks, and that’s a personal choice you need to think about here, although there are no hard and fast guidelines on that one. It’s really the latter part of pregnancy which is affected by air travel, and it’s more about the policy of your particular airline than anything else.
Follow this guidance to make it all simple:
- If you have any concerns, speak to your midwife.
- If you have any current complications or health problems, again, speak to your midwife.
- If you are over 32 weeks pregnant, check with your airline on their cut off point for travel. The fact that the chance of going into labor at this point onwards is higher (37 weeks for a single pregnancy and 32 weeks for twins) means some airlines simply won’t carry heavily pregnant women.
- Be aware that after 28 weeks, your airline could, in theory, ask for a letter from your doctor or midwife telling them what your expected date of delivery is, as well as confirming that your pregnancy is healthy – this may be called a ‘fit to fly’ letter.
Helpful tip: Consider buying and using the Eurail Pass to travel Europe if flying isn’t for you during pregnancy.
Road Travel During Pregnancy
If you choose to go on a long car journey when you’re pregnant, you need to know that you might be a tad bit uncomfortable, but it is possible.
There is a higher chance of feeling tired or dizzy during pregnancy overall, and in a car, these symptoms can be increased. I just traveled Zadar to Zagreb and the I was sick for the 3+ hour ride the entire time. Not fun at all.
Follow this guidance to get you from A to B as comfortably as possible:
- Drink water often.
- Eat energy boosting snacks, e.g. fruit.
- Stop regularly for breaks to stretch your legs.
- Keep a window open and get plenty of fresh air inside the car.
- If you have to drive, try to take extra breaks or share the responsibility with another driver.
- Wear your seatbelt with the across the body strap resting between your breasts, and the lap belt under your bump, NEVER over it. You can also choose to use a bump belt for added safety.
There is no real restriction on when you can and can’t travel in a car, but do bear in mind that if you are in later pregnancy and you’re traveling a long way, there is a chance of labor kicking off spontaneously, and that could be a situation you don’t really want! There is also the lack of public restrooms on some roads, and you will find that you need to pee more often, and quite quickly as pregnancy progresses.
Travel Insurance During Pregnancy
Every single travel insurance policy requires you to declare any pre-existing medical conditions, and you will need to declare your pregnancy. If you have an annual policy and you find out you are pregnant, you will need to contact your insurance company and see whether this covers you, and if not, you will need to purchase a policy which does. There needs to be certain additional costs covered by a policy which is for a pregnant woman, including the potential for regular labour whilst away, premature labour, any medical attention you need for your pregnancy, as well as if you have to chance the date of your return travel, because you have gone into labour during your trip.
Shop around for the best policies during pregnancy, and remember to take a copy of your policy with you, preferably keeping it together with your maternity records.
Vaccinations – Is it a Do or a Don’t?
If you are traveling to a destination which requires you to have vaccinations against certain infection diseases or anti-malaria treatment, you will need to discuss this carefully with your doctor before you go. There are certain vaccinations which aren’t safe for pregnant woman, because they contain live bacteria, and certain anti-malaria medication can also cause an issue.
In this case, it’s really about talking to your doctor and weighing up the pros and cons, whether the risk outweighs the benefit. This will really depend on where you’re going, and the risk of the particular disease. You may or may not be advised to take the vaccination, and this is something you will need to heed advice on and make your own judgment.
Food Issues While Travelling
You are probably totally aware of this list already, but during pregnancy, you should either completely avoid these foods, or take precautions with some of them. When you are away from home and in a foreign country, eating certain foods can be difficult to avoid, but these are on the danger list:
- Some cheeses – mould-ripened cheese, soft blue cheeses
- Raw or part cooked eggs
- Milk and yogurt
- Ice cream
- Herbal teas
- Game meat
- Raw or undercooked meat
- Liver cold cured meats
- Raw shellfish
Also, remember to stick to bottled water only.
Hopefully, this little chat will have made the whole mystery of travel during pregnancy a little clearer. If you are confused about anything, always check it out with your midwife, to be 100% sure.