Whether it’s your first or your third child there is no reason not to continue travelling during your pregnancy, be it for a romantic babymoon before baby arrives or essential for your work.
Here are 9 tips to see you on the road and in the air for healthy pregnancy travel.
1. Travel during your second trimester
Of course, you can in theory travel at any point in your pregnancy up to a point; you will however find that travelling during your second trimester is likely to be the most comfortable. In a healthy, normal pregnancy, most of the morning sickness that many women suffer during the first trimester should have passed and the risk of miscarriage significantly decreases after 13 weeks. You may still feel physically well enough during your third trimester to travel, but run into restrictions with airlines.
2. Know your airline rules
Every airline has their own rules about when they will take an expectant mother. As a general rule most airlines will require a doctor’s letter after 28 weeks to show that you are fit to travel and from 36 weeks (single pregnancy) or 32 weeks (multiple pregnancy) they may refuse you to fly. This does vary by airline and can vary by length of flight.
Rather than risk finding yourself stranded, make sure you get a letter from your doctor or midwife within 10 days of flying to ensure your safe passage, there AND back and read the airlines rules carefully, including any code share arrangements that may differ from the airline you booked with. Also check that the dates in your letter are written in full, i.e. 9 October 2015 not 9/10/15 which could easily be mistaken in some countries as 10 September 2015.
Another common concern of air travel is whether it’s safe to pass through airport security screening. I cannot authoritatively tell you that it’s perfectly safe, but if you do have any concerns, you are within your rights to request a pat down rather than walking through a screening device.
3. Get comfortable in the air
Always try to ask for an aisle seat (and even better the bulkhead!). If they can’t help you at check-in, plead your case on the plane with the cabin crew and neighbours; nobody wants to be constantly clambered over by the large peeing lady. Now might also be the perfect chance to treat yourself to a cabin upgrade, get that extra leg room and relax while you can.
All flyers should heed some basic health advice when in the air but it is especially important when you are pregnant to stay hydrated, do circulation exercises (consider wearing pressure socks), get up and take regular walks and eat regularly (ie. bring a little bag of healthy nibbles with you to be sure).
4. Avoid the idyllic island
While the notion of taking a babymoon to a remote island might sound idyllic, think about the practicalities – not only the isolation factor but this will either involve taking a boat or flying in a small aircraft. Medical practitioners strongly recommend against pregnant women from flying in smaller aircraft unless absolutely necessary because unlike large commercial aircraft they lack pressurisation. Without pressurisation your body has to work extremely hard to provide you and your baby with enough oxygen.
5. Beware the long and winding road
If flying feels completely out of the question, or you are well into your third trimester you may prefer a destination a little closer to home and consider a road trip. Think carefully about how far from home you want to drive and the terrain; you will likely need to pee much more frequently than you usually do (will there be sufficient roadhouse stops?) and windy roads can make you incredibly nauseous, even if you don’t usually suffer – remember how much blood you have pumping around your body working overtime; perhaps save the romantic mountain top retreat for another day?
6. Check your travel insurance
Even if you have a doctor’s letter and the airline permits you to fly, your travel insurance company may have a different policy, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a foreign country and unable to leave if your insurance company won’t cover you to fly so read the fine print. Even if you are perfectly healthy when you take off on your adventure unfortunately things can and do go wrong en route, so know what you are covered for.
7. Research medical facilities
No matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, you may at some point need to seek emergency medical help. Have a plan in mind if anything is to go wrong; do you know where the nearest hospital / clinics are at your destination? Can you speak the language or at least learn a few key words related to pregnancy (e.g. how many weeks you are, bleeding, pain – pointing with a pained expression only gets you so far). Take any maternity notes with you to help bring any new doctor up to speed.
8. Pick your exotic location carefully
You may also wish to defer travel while pregnant to any location that requires vaccines that involve injecting the live virus, this includes vaccines for yellow fever, typhoid, MMR, BCG. Countries which are prone to malaria should also be avoided.
9. Listen to your body
Take the cues and know when to take it easy. Remember some of the classic pregnancy symptoms, you do have more blood pumping around your body so likely to heat up and tire quicker, be wary of travelling anywhere too hot and humid, and be really careful of what you eat.
Ultimately the best advice is to speak to your doctor or midwife before you travel and discuss any concerns you might have. You may have extenuating circumstances if you are in a high-risk pregnancy where they do not recommend flying at all, but for the average, healthy pregnancy it shouldn’t be a problem.
If this is your first baby it might be the last time for quite a while that you can relax and sleep! Take every opportunity you can, enjoy your final moments together as a couple as things are about to change more than you can imagine – but there are no excuses not to continue travelling the world!
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