TRAVEL DURING PREGNANCY
Can I travel while I’m pregnant? Are there any special precautions I should take? Are some forms of transportation better than others? Is timing important? These are just some of the questions pregnant women ask about travel during this special time. The answers depend on whether your pregnancy is high risk – involving complications needing special care – how long you have been pregnant, and your personal comfort. Although it is best to discuss your travel plans with your doctor, most women can safely travel throughout their pregnancies. This pamphlet is designed to add to your doctor’s advice with tips for safe, enjoyable travel.
When to Travel
Your doctor may recommend that you choose the second trimester – the fourth through the sixth month – if you are planning a trip. Although travel is generally safe at other times, this is the period with the lowest chance of complications. You may find that the second trimester is the most comfortable time to travel as well. When you first become pregnant, you are adjusting to many changes, both physical and emotional. You may be tired or sleepy; you may have some morning sickness. By the second trimester, morning sickness is usually no longer a problem. Your body has adjusted to pregnancy, and you have more energy. Towards the end of your pregnancy, your bulkier figure makes moving around more difficult and sitting comfortably for prolonged periods nearly impossible.
For these reasons, when planning a vacation or business trip, schedule it for the middle part of your pregnancy, if you can. Let your doctor know that you are planning a trip, where you want to go, and how you will get there.
The best method of transportation when you are pregnant is very often the one you enjoy most, pregnant or not. Sometimes speed of travel, which results in less time spent getting there, is an advantage. Whether you choose a car, plane, bus or train, take extra steps to ensure your comfort and safety.
You should ask your doctor about the safety of other means of travel – for example, travel by motorcycle is not recommended during pregnancy.
Using a seat belt is probably the best precaution to take when travelling by car. Statistics have shown that in a crash, a person who is wearing a seat belt is much safer than one who is not. Some women worry that the belt will squeeze the fetus (unborn baby) if the car stops quickly or if there is an impact, but this is very unlikely. Inside the uterus, which is protected by muscles, organs and bones, the fetus is cushioned in a fluid-filled sac. Studies have shown that in nearly 100% of car crashes, the fetus recovered quickly from any pressure the seat belt exerts and suffers no lasting injury. Riding in a car without wearing a seat belt increases the risk to both the pregnant woman and her fetus.
Belts with both shoulder and lap straps are safer and more comfortable than those with only lap restraints. Fasten the belt snugly across your shoulders and low on your hips, under the bulge of your abdomen. Putting something small and soft like a wool scarf or a thin blanket between the belt and your body may increase your comfort.
Most likely, you have your own system for car travel and your favourite items to bring along to make the ride go smoothly. Consider some of these suggestions for comfort:
If you are a passenger, take along a few small pillows. You can tuck one behind the small of your back and rest your head on another.
Wear loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t bind your abdomen or legs when you are seated. Skirts and dresses are often more comfortable than pants.
Plan for frequent stops,
Keep your circulation going – sitting still for a long time is uncomfortable when you are pregnant – stop and walk around often. If someone else is driving, do foot and ankle exercises in the car; put your seat back as far as you can and prop your feet on a small box.
Make each day’s drive short enough to be fun. Ten hours on the road is wearing even when you aren’t pregnant! Five or six hours of driving each day is a good target figure.
Going by Air
Airplane travel is safe throughout most of your pregnancy. Travel on commercial airlines is best. Many airlines require your doctor’s approval when you are travelling in your ninth month because of the possibility of an early labour. Procedures vary with different airlines, so ask about the policies of the one you are using. Give yourself enough time to get your doctor’s permission when booking flights late in your pregnancy.
Tips for Comfortable Flying
Airline professionals suggest the forward part of the cabin, in front of the wings, for the most stable ride. You can usually get your seat assignment either when you book your flight or when you check in.
Ask for an aisle seat (so that you can walk around and can get to the lavatory easily) near the bulkhead, the wall dividing first class and coach. You will have extra leg room there, as well as a smooth ride.
Most airlines offer early boarding for passengers who may need time or assistance getting seated. Take the option and save yourself the discomfort of being jostled, hurried, or slowed down in a long line.
Eat lightly to avoid airsickness. Special meals are available on many flights. If you order in advance, you can choose anything from a vegetarian to a low-salt menu. Carry your own supply of bland crackers; they help with nausea, too.
Since cabin temperature can shift, even on a short flight, wear a few layers of light clothing that will allow you to either bundle up or remove a layer or two. Pregnancy can make you more sensitive to temperature changes.
Trains, Buses and Ships
Long trips by bus can be uncomfortable when you are pregnant. Bus travel is economical, but there are drawbacks – narrow aisles, limited lavatory space, and little control over rest stops. Unless you have a special reason for going by bus, you may want to use another kind of transportation while you are pregnant.
Train travel, on the other hand, can be an excellent choice. You shed the worries of driving, and there is more space for walking around than on a plane or a bus.
How about a cruise or an ocean voyage? Here you will have to rely on common sense, consultation with your doctor, and shipboard rules. Sea travel can really upset your stomach, so if you have never been on a boat, this is not a good time to try it. But if you are a seasoned sailor and you know your stomach can stand the motion of a ship in the water, ask your doctor’s opinion and check with your travel agent for cruise regulations on pregnant.
Travelling in Foreign Countries
If travel to foreign land attracts you, being pregnant need not stop you from taking a holiday abroad. Since you will be far from your home and your doctor, you will want to take some extra precautions.
A medical summary, useful wherever you travel, is especially important when you go overseas. Having all the facts gathered saves time in an emergency. Sometimes, too, it is easier for a foreign doctor to understand written statements than spoken ones. Get a copy of your prenatal record from your doctor, carry it with you, and make sure your travelling companion knows where it is. A medical emergency is unlikely, but you will be more relaxed knowing you are prepared if one occurs.
Download the app in your hand-phone to help express your needs concerning pregnancy. You could ask your doctor about the most common emergencies and then keep words and phrases that apply.
Google where medical facilities and doctors are located. The foreign embassies/consulates in the countries you plan to visit can help.
Your body may take a bit longer to adjust to a new time zone that it would if you were not pregnant, so allow a couple of days for rest after the flight.
Requirements for immunisation vary; find out which ones are needed for the country or countries you plan to visit.
Travel to most western European countries does not require immunisation. However, vaccines against viral diseases, such as yellow fever, pose potential risks to the fetus, so you should check with your doctor before getting any immunisations. You may have to change travel plans
What You Eat
Trying new dishes is one of the great pleasures of foreign travel! Your digestive system can be upset easily when you are pregnant and you will want to watch what you eat. Sample small amounts of unusual or spicy foods to see how they agree with you. Stay away from raw or undercooked meat; it can contain an organism that causes toxoplasmosis, a disease which will not harm you but may cause injury to the fetus and the placenta (tissue that connects mother and fetus that brings nourishment and takes away waste).
To help prevent digestive problems, avoid fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Long-time residents of any country become used to the micro-organisms found on local produce and are not harmed by consuming them. Since you are a visitor, you don’t have that built-in protection and must be careful.
The same is true of local water. When you are pregnant, it is best to be cautious and drink only bottled water while you are visiting other countries. Some of the mineral waters available abroad are sparkling, or carbonated, and can be helpful for an upset stomach.
When travelling abroad, it is easy to develop irregular eating habits. You can become so absorbed in watching new sights that you forget to eat regular, nutritious meals. But when you are pregnant, keeping up the balanced, healthy diet you follow at home is very important. You will have more energy and feel better if you do.
Feeling Your Best
One pleasure of travel is sight-seeing, which usually involves considerable walking – one of the best forms of exercise for pregnant women. Take a pair of low-heeled, comfortable walking shoes and walk as much as you wish until you tire.
Wonderful though it is, travel can make you tired or upset your stomach, and while pregnant you may find yourself more vulnerable than usual to the wear and tear of the journey. If you follow a sensible routine and stay alert to your body’s signals, problems will be kept to a minimum. If they do arise, some self-help techniques can prevent or help deal with them:
Walk around to stimulate and restore circulation and lessen leg swelling. Put your legs up when you can to relieve swelling, and avoid salty foods.
Wear support stockings if you have varicose veins (swollen veins) or problems with swelling.
Wear low-heeled, comfortable shoes, make sure you have a firm mattress, and sit in chairs with sturdy back support to reduce backaches. Stretch back muscles occasionally.
Travel in loose, light clothing that does not cut off circulation.
Choose natural fabrics like cotton or wool that absorb sweat (you may sweat more when you are pregnant).
Eat five or six small meals and munch on crackers or dry toast to prevent or reduce nausea.
Try to get more sleep and rest often so you won’t feel tired and irritable.
Lengthy business trips and long vacations do come up. If you are away from home for more than a few weeks, you could miss a regular appointment with your obstetrician. Ask her or him for the name of another doctor in the area where you will be staying, and make an appointment for a checkup.
While you are pregnant, be sure to let your doctor know about your travel plans. He or she can help you with concerns and offer advice on the safest time and means of travel for you. Don’t take any medication that your doctor has not approved. Your doctor will also warn you if travel is not recommended because of any medical problems you may have.
The rule of the thumb for domestic and foreign travel is to pay attention to your body’s signals. Your own physical feelings are among the best guide to your safety and well-being, on the road as well as at home.
High-Risk Pregnancy: A pregnancy with complications that need special medical attention.
Toxoplasmosis: An infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii, an organism that may be found in raw and rare meat, garden soil, and cat feces and can be harmful to the fetus.
Trimester: Any of the three 3-month periods into which pregnancy is divided.
This Patient Education Pamphlet is designed as an aid to patients. It sets forth current information and opinion on subjects related to women’s health. The information in this pamphlet does not dictate an exclusive course of treatment or procedure to be followed and should not be construed as excluding other acceptable methods of practice. Variations taking into account the needs of the individual patient, resources, and limitations unique to the institution or type of practice may be appropriate.