A hundred years ago, the issue of travel during pregnancy was probably not even considered. Most people did not go far from home, especially pregnant women. But in today's mobile society, many of us venture a considerable distance from our homes at some point each year. And if you do so when you're pregnant, you'll need to know what's safe, what isn't, and which precautions to take before, during, and after your trip.
There are several factors that will affect your travel during your pregnancy: the trimester of the pregnancy when a trip is planned, whether there have been any complications during the pregnancy, the type of travel being considered, and the distance that the travel will take you from home. Each of these factors will be discussed separately.
Travel during the first and second trimesters is usually considered to be safe, although it may be more fatiguing than usual. The first trimester may pose a few challenges for traveling if you're experiencing nausea or fatigue. And the risk of bleeding or miscarriage is the greatest during these months. The second trimester, the months in your pregnancy when you probably feel the best and have the most energy, is a great time for a trip. In fact, vacationing with your partner during this period might be an ideal chance to spend some fun time alone together before the baby arrives!
Travel in the third trimester may be uncomfortable and can be risky, since you could go into preterm labor many miles away from your own health care providers and hospital. Some airlines will not allow women in their ninth month of pregnancy to fly without a physician's letter of permission, and sometimes that letter must be written within 72 hours of flight time. And most health care providers would probably not be willing to give permission because of these risks. So if you do have business or vacation travel plans, try to complete them in the first six months of your pregnancy and stay closer to home in the last three months.
If your pregnancy has been normal, you can probably feel very confident about traveling. However, if your pregnancy has been labeled high risk because of complications such as preterm contractions, bleeding, pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), or gestational diabetes, it would be wise to postpone prolonged travel or travel that's far from home. Short trips within close proximity to home are probably quite safe and can be just as much fun.
Travel by car is likely to be the most comfortable means of travel during pregnancy. You're better able to control the periods of travel and can stop to rest when fatigued. When driving or riding in a car, stop every hour or two and walk around to stretch your legs this will promote good circulation. Be sure to empty your bladder whenever you stop to prevent a urinary tract infection from developing as a result of a too-full bladder. Take a pillow to promote comfort in your seat. Always remember to fasten your seat belt. Place the lap belt portion under your abdomen and position the shoulder harness between your breasts.
Flying shouldn't cause any problems in your first two trimesters. Plan your schedule so that you're not rushed when arriving at the airport, and plan connecting flights so that you have ample time to get from one gate to another without being stressed. Book an aisle seat so that you have a little more room and can easily get to the bathroom as needed. Walk up and down the aisle every hour or so to promote circulation in your legs. While sitting, flex your feet toward your face and make circles with your feet. Wearing support hose also stimulates circulation in your legs when you have to sit for long periods of time. Drink lots of water or juice to stay well hydrated.
Travel by boat, particularly if it's a large cruise ship, also should pose no particular problems in the first two trimesters. And most cruise ships have medical personnel aboard should you need assistance. If you're sensitive to motion, you might want to take medication to prevent motion sickness; ask your health care provider what would be safe to take during pregnancy. You can also wear the anti-nausea acupressure wristbands that are available over-the-counter at your pharmacy.
Obviously, the farther you venture from home during pregnancy, the greater the risk becomes if you develop any complications while away. The risk is that of being away from your personal health care provider, who has your medical records and knows your history. If you do travel far from home, you can plan ahead by being sure there are good sources of medical care at your destination. Take a record of your pregnancy health care, including tests you've had done, medications you're taking, your blood type, and any other information that might be helpful when you're out of town. Take your health care provider's name and contact information as well. If you have to travel out of the country, it is important to take copies of your prescriptions for medications, in case your medications become lost. Be sure your immunizations are up to date before planning a trip to countries where vaccinations are necessary, for some vaccines may not be safe to update during pregnancy.
Be aware that changes in climate or altitude and types of food could cause you more discomfort when you're pregnant. Limit exertion for a couple days after your arrival at your destination, particularly if the climate is hot or the altitude is high; this will allow your body to adjust to these changes.
In addition to the above considerations, always consult your health care provider before planning a trip, particularly if you'll be experiencing changes in altitude. She or he may be able to give you a medical contact in the area of your destination, in case you'd need to see a physician while you're away from home.
If the travel you're planning is a vacation, consider the type of activity that would be best during pregnancy. For example, relaxing by the beach or at a lovely hotel would be far better than hiking in the mountains! A trip with a single destination would be better than a trip where you're frequently moving from one location to another. Don't plan too many activities in one day; pace yourself, for you will tire more quickly than when you're not pregnant. If you're traveling for business, arrive at your destination a day before the meeting or activity so that you can rest. Limit the length of your workdays, if possible, and take regular breaks.
Following a healthful pregnancy diet is also important when traveling. Splurging on delicious treats is always a fun part of a vacation, and that's fine in pregnancy as well | as long as you remember to also eat the "good" foods that you and your baby need to stay healthy. If your travel takes you to countries where you're not sure about the safety of the water, drink only bottled water or fruit juices. Avoid raw fruits or vegetables as well. Take some healthy snacks with you in case you're not certain of the safety of foods. And remember to pack your prenatal vitamins.
With a little advance planning and some wise precautions, travel during your pregnancy can be safe and enjoyable. Bon voyage!