With a few simple precautions, traveling while pregnant is generally quite safe between the 18th and 24th weeks of the pregnancy. If fact, a trend is developing amongst many expectant parents of taking a romantic getaway or ‘babymoon’ during this time before the rigors of parenting a newborn set in.
Traveling in the first trimester can increase chances of miscarriage and travel during the third trimester can increase premature births. Always consult a medical professional before traveling to make sure it’s safe to travel.
Some international travel requires vaccination. Vaccinations, especially live vaccines such as the yellow fever vaccination, should be avoided. The yellow fever vaccination is particularly hazardous in the first trimester and women traveling to countries that require this vaccine may consider getting a certificate of exemption from a medical professional.
Additionally, some anti-malaria medications can be harmful to pregnant women. Avoid diethyltoluamide and doxicycline-based anti-malaria medicines and use DEET-based mosquito repellents sparingly. Another common travel medication prohibited during pregnancy is Imodium or any other anti-diarrhea medicines containing loperamide.
The greatest health risk for pregnant travelers is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clotting disorder occurring during long periods of immobilization. Pregnancy increases the likeliness of DVT on long haul flights and long distance car, train and bus trips.
On long trips, pregnant women should be sure to get up and walk at least once every hour. In between walks, wiggle toes and rotate ankles to increase circulation. Avoid constricting clothing and drink lots of water. For particularly high-risk women, doctors may recommend medical compression stockings or anti-coagulant medications for the trip.
When traveling by air, request an aisle seat to ensure maximum mobility and convenience. Bulkhead seats also offer more space to stretch legs and shift positions. Most airlines will not allow travel for women after 34 weeks of pregnancy. Check with individual carriers for their specific regulations.
When traveling by car, the risk of not wearing a seatbelt outweighs the risk or discomfort of wearing one. Be sure that the lap belt rests below the abdomen across the hips and that the shoulder belt falls between the breasts and then to one side of the abdomen.
On any trip, pregnant women should bring lots of snacks, lots of water, and a copy of their medical records in case a medical emergency occurs while traveling. A small travel pillow can also come in handy to get comfortable on long flights and rides.
Exercise and physical activity can be beneficial during pregnancy and healthy pregnant travelers can do most activities on vacation. They should, however, avoid strenuous activity in high altitude and scuba-diving, as oxygen deficiency is more dangerous during pregnancy.
If any of the following symptoms occur while traveling or at any other time during pregnancy, seek immediate medical attention:
- Vaginal bleeding (soaking more than one sanitary pad)
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe or prolonged vomiting
- Edema (swollen hands and ankles caused by water retention)
- Headaches (especially accompanied by vomiting and vision problems)