During pregnancy, the safest time to travel, provided there are no specific complications, is your second trimester. Where you plan to travel while pregnant, however, can have a huge impact on this safety level. At any stage of pregnancy, travel to developing countries is not recommended due to added risks associated with food-borne illness and other diseases, as well as the comparatively low standard of medical facilities and resources that could put you and your developing baby at risk.
Mode of transport is also an important consideration. Air travel may not suit your particular stage of pregnancy and car travel over long distances may also prove uncomfortable. Always discuss your travel plans with your doctor before booking your getaway.
Pregnant women experiencing complications are advised not to travel. Some of these complications include:
- Cervical problems, such as ‘incompetent cervix’
- Vaginal bleeding
- Multiple foetuses
- If you are aged 35 years or over and pregnant for the first time
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Abnormalities of the placenta
- Prior miscarriage
- Prior ectopic pregnancy
- Prior premature labour.
Travellers to most developing nations need to be vaccinated against diseases such as typhoid, but most vaccines are either dangerous to unborn babies or haven’t been adequately tested for safety on pregnant women. Generally, all live virus vaccines (such as mumps and measles) should be avoided during pregnancy. Some vaccines, such as yellow fever, may cautiously be given after the first trimester. Ask your doctor. Travel to these destinations is generally best avoided during pregnancy.
The risk of malaria
Malaria is an infection carried by particular species of mosquito. Catching malaria during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature labour and stillbirth. Some antimalarial drugs (such as chloroquine) are considered safe to take during pregnancy, but others (such as doxycycline) are potentially harmful to the unborn baby. It is recommended that pregnant women avoid travelling to areas where malaria is present.
Before the flight
If you are traveling by plane, remember:
- Before planning your getaway, talk to your doctor about any potential risks to your pregnancy and how they might be best avoided. If you have gestational diabetes or multiple fetuses you will probably be advised to avoid flying.
- Be aware that air travel in the last six weeks of pregnancy could trigger premature labour.
- Some airlines won’t allow a woman over 35 weeks gestation to fly.
- Some airlines require that pregnant women over 35 weeks gestation have a doctor’s note of approval for flying.
- Some travel insurance policies may not cover pregnancy. Be honest with them and be sure to check the fine print.
- Be prepared. Arrange with the airline for a bulkhead seat or a seat near an exit for extra leg room. Booking an aisle seat makes getting up to go to the toilet a little easier.
Your medical kit
Discuss the recommended contents of your medical kit with your doctor before you leave. Remember to pack this kit in your carry-on luggage in case you do need to access it during the flight. Be aware that some items (tweezers, scissors, maybe not be allowed in carry-on luggage). Remember that pregnant women should be wary of taking drugs of any kind, including those commonly used to treat travellers’ diarrhea. Seek medical advice.
Recommended to include in your medical kit:
- Preparations to help you treat common pregnancy complaints, such as heartburn, thrush, constipation and haemorrhoids.
- Multivitamin tablets formulated for pregnancy.
- Urine dipsticks to check glucose levels (if required).
Air travel concerns
General cautions include:
- Wear your seat belt under your belly and across your lap.
- Pregnancy puts strain on your body’s circulation. The lower cabin pressure inside a plane can add to this and may increase the risk of blood clots.
- Drink plenty of water to reduce the risk of dehydration. Maintaining your fluid intake will also reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- With the risk of unexpected turbulence that could knock you off your feet, walking up and down the aisles isn’t a good idea. Instead, only get out of your seat when necessary, such as going to the toilet, but be sure to stretch and move your legs regularly while seated. Consider wearing support stockings for the duration of the flight.
- Many pregnant women experience anemia. If you are feeling short of breath or light-headed while in the air, ask one of the flight attendants to give you breathing oxygen.
This article was written by Claire Halliday for Kidspot NZ.