Whether it’s a sightseeing trip across the world, a quick jaunt to visit family, or a business trip, lots of folks will face the question of traveling while pregnant. Is it safe? What do you need to do to get ready? Can you fly or take road trips or does pregnancy mean you’re grounded until delivery day? Here’s what you need to know!
The Basics of Travel During Pregnancy
If you don’t have any complications and as long as your pregnancy isn’t high-risk, you’re generally cleared to travel. In most cases, your doctor will recommend that you don’t travel after week 36 (or week 32 for multiple babies or people with risk factors for premature labor and delivery) because you don’t want to end up going into labor away from wherever you planned to deliver.
In general, most women find that travel is easiest during the second trimester. The worst of the morning sickness generally passes by then and your belly hasn’t grown quite enough to make you really uncomfortable. Note that some airlines won’t let you fly past your 8th month, so be sure to check on their policies. In some cases, they will make an exception if you have written approval from your doctor.
Whether your pregnancy is high-risk or not, you should always consult your doctor or other health care provider if you plan to travel. They may be able to offer advice specific to your pregnancy needs and can help you set out a plan to make your trip as safe as possible. They can also help locate a doctor or midwife at your destination so you have a place to go if you need it. And don’t forget to take a copy of your medical records with you – that can make a huge difference if you have a problem and need treatment.
Your insurance may cover the cost of having a baby – unless you’re traveling out of state. Many insurance plans have limits on coverage while you’re traveling, although some will allow for emergency services wherever you are. If you’re leaving the state, consider purchasing supplementary health insurance in case you need healthcare while you’re on the road. You may be able to get it through your primary insurance company or through a company that offers travel insurance.
On that note, you may want to invest in travel insurance if your trip involves airfare or hotels. Travel insurance will cover the costs if you have to cancel your trip (like if you go into labor early) or if you have to cut your trip short for an emergency. In addition, many travel insurance options include emergency medical care.
Risks Of Pregnant Travel
Most of the risks of traveling while pregnant are the same as traveling otherwise – car crashes, catching a bug, etc. But there is one extra risk you should be extra conscious of: blood clots.
You’re 6 times more likely to suffer deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a serious blood clot, during pregnancy than when you’re not pregnant. A DVT alone can cause pain, swelling, and tissue damage. But they can also break loose and travel to your heart or lungs, causing a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. Experts believe that increased risk has to do with the increase in estrogen and certain other hormones during pregnancy and with the compression of the blood vessels in your pelvis as the baby grows.
Symptoms of a DVT include pain and swelling around the area of the clot. These clots generally happen in your legs, so keep an eye out for those symptoms, especially if they’re only showing up on one side. The affected area may also be red and warm to the touch. If you are experiencing those symptoms, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
Avoiding DVT While Traveling
One major risk factor for DVT (whether you’re pregnant or not) is sitting still for long periods of time. One of the best ways to decrease the likelihood of developing a clot is to get up and walk around regularly – you need to keep that blood flowing and walking is the best way to stimulate the circulation in your legs. Get up and move at least every hour or so. If you’re driving, that means taking frequent rest stops. If you’re flying, taking a train, or on a boat, it just means getting up regularly. Consider getting an aisle seat so it’s easy to get out and walk up and down the aisle. This is especially important on airplanes – flying increases the risk of DVT in general, so pregnant women are especially vulnerable.
Another way to decrease the likelihood of DVT is to stay hydrated. Drink tons of water before and during your trip. As you get dehydrated, your blood gets thicker and more likely to clot. Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend taking baby aspirin, especially if you’re flying.
Finally, your doctor may recommend that you wear compression stockings (again, especially for flying pregnant). These can help maintain the circulation and prevent blood from pooling in your legs.
Depending on your destination, international travel may require extra precautions. You’ll need to talk to your doctor about whether you need any extra vaccines. In addition, it’s safest to postpone travel to areas that are currently dealing with Zika virus, which can cause serious birth defects.
Also, be careful about what you eat and drink. Many areas have water-borne illnesses that don’t affect the locals (since they grew up there) but can make you really sick. Those same water-borne bugs can also get into the food. Talk to your doctor about what’s safe to eat wherever you’re going. If the water isn’t safe, you should only drink bottled water. You should also brush your teeth with bottled water. These kinds of bugs generally aren’t very serious in and of themselves, but they can cause you some miserable digestive trouble. That can cause diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration – and that’s dangerous for you and the baby.
Traveling While Pregnant Is Totally Doable – Just Be Safe!
Pregnancy doesn’t mean your life has to stop – there’s no reason you can’t go on a vacation or travel for work. The trick is to work with your doctor ahead of time to make sure that you understand the risks and what you need to do to be safe. So go pack your bags and have an awesome trip!