Travel in Pregnancy

December 20, 2011

By: Christina Francis, MD

As the holiday season gets into full swing, many pregnant women might be wondering how safe it is going to be to travel this year.  Traveling can be just as safe during pregnancy as when you’re not pregnant, if you take some specific precautions.

First of all, the best time to travel during pregnancy is during the 2ndtrimester, or between 14 and 28 weeks.  Most emergencies in pregnancy occur during the first and third trimesters.  If you have no history of complications with your current or previous pregnancies, it is probably safe to travel even during these times.  After 36 weeks, you should stay close to home.  If you have any medical or pregnancy complications that have made your pregnancy high risk, you should avoid any unnecessary travel.  If travel is necessary, consult with your physician before leaving.

If you will be traveling by car, there are some things to do to give yourself a safe and more enjoyable trip.  Always make sure you wear a seatbelt.  The lap belt should go across your hips and under your belly.  The shoulder belt should go above your belly and not across it.  If you are driving for more than 4 hours, make sure you stop at least once and get out and walk around.  This will help prevent blood clots and help decrease swelling.  For long road trips (6 hours or longer), you might want to consider wearing compression stockings as well.  Also make sure you drink plenty of water.  When you arrive at your destination, make sure to find out where the closest hospital is that offers maternity services.  Also, carry your doctor’s emergency number with you.

If you are planning on traveling by air, the first thing to do is check with the airline to see if they have any restrictions for pregnant travelers.  Most airlines will allow you to fly up to 36 weeks (less if international) but it is always better to check first.  Rarely will you need a note from your physician.  Again, if the flight is longer than four hours, you should get up and walk around on the plane and try and avoid drinking anything other than water during the flight in order to maintain hydration.  Compression stockings can also be useful in decreasing swelling and preventing blood clots while flying.

Traveling internationally can also be safe during pregnancy.  Travelling to foreign countries is not recommended in the third trimester.  It is best to avoid areas where malaria is endemic during pregnancy, but if you need to go to one of these areas, there are medications for malaria prophylaxis that can be taken in pregnancy.  You would need to consult with your physician about this.  You can find a listing of obstetricians in the area where you’re traveling to from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT).  It is important to remember that you will need to have vaccinations prior to traveling to some parts of the world (especially Africa and Asia) and that some of these may not be safe during pregnancy.  You can find a listing of these vaccinations at the Centers for Disease Control’s website – www.cdc.gov

In summary, travel during pregnancy can be safe and enjoyable.  It is important to consult with your physician before making long trips and it is best to travel during the 2ndtrimester, between 14 and 28 weeks.