With the advent of bargain tickets bought months before travel schedule, this is one of the most common questions asked of me. Unless the stress of travelling can prove to be harmful to you, you don’t need to cancel your travel plans because you got pregnant. It is however important to get a clearance from your obstetrician before embarking anywhere.
When to Travel
The best time to travel is mid-pregnancy (14-28 weeks of gestation). By that time many women have been assessed of viability of pregnancy; checked if they are at high risk of miscarriage in the first trimester; adjusted comfortably from the morning sickness, and tummy size is not too big that would be difficult to sit for long periods of time. During late pregnancy, there is an increased risk of preterm labor (labor that starts before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy). The best thing to do is follow your body’s signals. I always believe that how you feel is one of the best guides to your well-being and safety.
How to Travel
Whether by land or by air or by sea, when asked which is the best way, I often say the quickest way is usually the best. Remember your comfort and safety is the priority.
If By Land, or local trips, a car can be a good way to travel. You can control your bathroom breaks as well as length of drive each day. Try to make each day’s drive brief. Limit travel time to no more than 5 or 6 hours of driving each day. Keep well hydrated and cool.
Car safety advice doesn’t change for pregnant women. You should wear your seatbelt every time you travel, even if it has an air bag. It has been recommended that in order to prevent injury, you should buckle up with both the lap and shoulder belts on every trip. The shoulder belt should be placed between your breasts and not under your arm. Put your lap belt below your belly and not across the tummy. Safety belts worn too loosely or too high on the belly can cause broken ribs or injuries to your belly. More damage is caused when they aren’t used at all. Keep your seat as far back from the dashboard as you can (at least 10 inches, if possible). Women should not have their air bags turned off because they are pregnant. The benefits of an air bag outweigh the risks to a pregnant women and her baby. If you get in a crash, even a minor accident, please see your doctor to make sure you and your baby are fine.
If you’re travelling by bus or train, keep in mind that the ride may not always be smooth. Buses have narrow aisles and small bathrooms. Trains have more space for walking, but the bathrooms are often just as small. Make sure to hold on to railings or seat backs when you are up and about.
If By Air, an airplane travel is almost always safe during pregnancy. However, remember to ask your travel agent regarding cut off age of gestation that airlines allow pregnant women to fly. No international flights for pregnant women may range from 28-32 weeks age of gestation. Local flights are more lenient to 34-36 weeks.
Don’t worry about walking through the metal detector at the airport security check. It will not harm you or your baby.
When you choose your seat, it would be best to reserve an aisle one. This will make it easier for you to get up and walk around, as well as, you won’t have to climb over others to get to the lavatory. The best seat, in my opinion for pregnant women is just behind the wall that divides first-class and coach seats because it has extra room to stretch your legs and easy access to the restroom. If possible, try to get a seat near the front of the plane. It’s less bumpy up front.
If By Sea, travel can be fun but it could upset your stomach and cause dizziness from the ship’s motion. Like air travel, please check on cruise rules for pregnant women. Confirm that the ship has a medical team on board. Furthermore, consider the places you will be docking that if you do have an emergency, these areas have medical facilities that can help you with any of your pregnancy problems.
Remember that when you are planning your trip out of the country, you need to protect yourself from diseases and infection endemic in the country you’re visiting. Ask your obstetrician for help in figuring out what you need to do, extra medications you may require before your trip. Do call the International Travelers Hotline at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . This service has safety tips and up-to-date vaccination facts for many countries. Allow plenty of time to get any shots you may need. Be sure to have a copy of your health record to take with you, especially if you are on special medications and care.
No matter whatever mode of travel you choose, remember to:
- Include your obstetrician before you plan to travel. Bring a copy of your health record especially if you require special medications and care. Inquire safe medications you can take for motion sickness, and diarrhea from your doctor.
- Ask your physician, the safety of travelling late in pregnancy. You don’t want to go into labor far from home.
- Keep cool. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Sometimes, you may want to wear support or pressure stockings.
- Keep well hydrated. Drink lots of fluids to help prevent urinary tract infections. Always have a bottle of water or some unsweetened juice with you at all times.
- Take time to eat. A balanced and healthy diet will boost your energy.
- Plan trips as easy as possible. It is tempting to see as many sights as you can but of course, pregnant women tend to tire easily so please don't do too much.
- Try to walk around and stretch your back muscles, as often as you can while en route. Stretching your legs will lessen the risk of blood clots. It also helps decrease the amount of swelling in your ankles and feet.
- Get plenty of sleep
On a Final Note
Your pregnancy need not disrupt your travel plans. Including your obstetrician, when preparing for your trip would help with concerns and he/she can offer advice on the safest time and ways of travel for you. Just follow a sensible schedule and be conscious of your body’s signals, and problems should be few. By the way, don't worry about a bumpy ride, it doesn't cause labor pains.