Maybe you’ve got the travel bug or you are a frequent business flyer. But you’re pregnant…can you still take off on a road trip to see family or hop on a plane for that wedding across the country? The short answer is yes — if you are having an uncomplicated pregnancy and your doctor gives you the green light. The best time is probably the middle of your pregnancy (between weeks 14 and 28). Why? Most pregnancy emergencies usually happen in the first and third trimesters. Whether you travel by land, air or sea, as long as you take a few precautions, you and the baby will be fine.
- Avoid blood clots. Plan frequent stops to walk around. Pregnant women are in a “hypercoagulable state,” making them more susceptible to clotting, and this condition is more likely to worsen when sitting for long periods of time. In addition to those walks and stretches, consider wearing a pair of compression tights or socks to keep your blood flowing. Try to limit driving time to no more than five or six hours each day.
- Wear your seat belt properly. The lap belt should be below your belly so that it rests against your hip bones. The shoulder belt should be across the center of your chest and to the side of your baby bump.
- If you are driving, move your seat as far back as comfortably possible and position the steering wheel at least 10 inches away from your breastbone so that if the airbag deploys, it won’t harm your baby.
Commercial airline travel is generally safe for women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
- While many domestic airlines allow women to fly up to 37 weeks gestation, the cutoff point for international airlines is often earlier. Call the airline beforehand to ask about their policy.
- If you can, book an aisle seat so you can easily get up and stretch your legs or go to the restroom.
- Wear your seatbelt throughout the flight.
- Try to stay away from gas-producing foods such as eggs or fried, fatty foods. Also, avoid carbonated drinks before your flight. (Carbonation is a bladder irritant that can make you urinate more often than you normally would when consuming the same volume of a non-carbonated drink.)
- Until we have more long-term studies about potential complications that could arise from pregnant women going through the security scanner, I recommend asking for a pat- down instead.
- Ask your doctor about medications that help with seasickness. You can also ask about a “seasickness band”. Although there is not much scientific evidence that they work, the bands use acupressure to help with an upset stomach.
- Beware of noroviruses — very contagious viruses that can spread rapidly throughout cruise ships and cause severe nausea and vomiting for one to two days. Before booking a cruise, you may want to check whether your ship has passed a health and safety inspection conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When traveling abroad…
There are a few other safeguards you should consider if you are traveling abroad. Here’s the latest expert advice:
- Ask your doctor and check the CDC website to see if pregnant women should avoid your desired destination (for example, due to the Zika virus).
- Make sure your immunizations are up-to-date.
- Check the foreign medical care at your destination. Find out where the hospital is and if the doctors speak English. Also, find out if your insurance company covers medical visits or procedures abroad.
- Beware of contaminated food and unsafe drinking water.
- Boiled water is best. The safest water to drink is tap water that has been boiled for 1 minute (3 minutes at altitudes higher than 6,000 feet). If you can’t boil the tap water, bottled water is your next best option. However, beware that there is still no guarantee it is free of germs that can cause illness because there may not be standards for bottled water. Carbonated beverages and drinks made with boiled water are safe to drink.
- Don’t put ice made from unboiled water in your drinks.
- Don’t drink out of glasses that may have been washed in unboiled water.
- Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables unless they have been cooked or you have peeled them yourself.
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat or fish.
Have a safe and fun pregnancy travel experience! #DrNita