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Travel During Pregnancy
If you’re currently pregnant, life as you know it will be changing in a matter of months. For women who enjoy traveling, this can be a perfect opportunity to get away without the need for a babysitter or an armful of baby supplies.

Each pregnancy is different, so ask your doctor for permission before you pack your bags. If you have a complicated pregnancy, or have a serious medical condition, you may be advised to stay at home. If your pregnancy is low-risk, and your doctor gives you permission to travel, here is some general advice:

When to Travel:
The first trimester is often accompanied by fatigue and nausea. Taking a big trip may be more than you can handle if coping with pregnancy itself is already troublesome. Also, most miscarriages occur in the first trimester of pregnancy. If you are at risk of miscarriage, or show any signs of a threatened miscarriage, it is best to postpone a big trip. While traveling is unlikely to cause a miscarriage, having a problem away from home can be especially difficult.

Most doctors recommend traveling in the second trimester, between 14 and 28 weeks. The risk of miscarriage is low, energy levels usually return to normal, and your belly can still fit through most doorways. If you are not at risk for pre-term labor, this period of time may be the most comfortable for travel. Late in pregnancy, most doctors and airlines recommend against lengthy trips. While air travel may not be a direct cause of contractions, the stress of travel could certainly play a role. Several of my patients developed pre-term labor far from home, necessitating emergency medical care and hospitalization. Know the signs of pre-term labor before you leave home, and ask your doctor to check your cervix before your trip. Many airlines forbid travel during the last six to eight weeks of pregnancy. Check your airline’s policy before you book a flight and bring a letter from your physician indicating that it is safe for you to travel.

Safety Issues:
Make sure that your medical insurance will cover you during a trip abroad. Purchase travel medical insurance and be prepared in the case of an emergency. Seek immediate medical attention if you begin bleeding, have abdominal pain or cramping, contractions, or begin to leak amniotic fluid. Find out the name of a local obstetrician and location of a nearby hospital at your destination. Bring a copy of your medical records, keep your health care provider’s phone number at hand, and bring a list of safe over-the-counter medications you can use. If you are taking medication already, bring an adequate supply, a copy of your prescriptions and a note from your doctor identifying the medications that you require.

Where to Travel:
If your preference is mountains, you may need time to adjust to high altitudes. It is inadvisable to ascend more than 2000 feet in a day, and best to stay below altitudes of 10,000 feet. Drink plenty of water and rest as much as your body needs.

If you like beaches, make sure to stay well hydrated and keep your skin protected from the sun. Pregnancy hormones may allow your skin to darken in an uneven manner, so cover up when you can and use plenty of sunscreen. While swimming is a terrific exercise and snorkeling is fine, scuba diving is NOT advisable while pregnant and may be dangerous to your baby.

If exotic foreign travel is your desire, find out about local health risks or travel advisories in your desired destination. Determine well in advance exactly which medications and vaccines are recommended for your trip abroad. Many medications are not considered safe during pregnancy and certain vaccines are forbidden during this time, so discuss your plans with your doctor. Sanitation may be of concern; be sure to have access to bottled water, stay away from raw vegetables and improperly cooked foods and make sure that all consumed dairy products are pasteurized.

How to Travel:
You need to move frequently during pregnancy to maintain good circulation. Prolonged sitting can increase your risk of blood clots. If you drive, make frequent rest stops along the way and be sure to get out of the car and walk around. Don’t drive for a total of more than five or six hours a day. Place your lap belt BELOW your pregnant belly, against your upper thighs, and place your shoulder strap between your breasts and not against your neck. In the event of a minor car accident, your baby will be well cushioned inside your uterus; however, consult with your doctor to determine if medical attention is advised.

If you choose to travel by plane, make an effort to get up and walk at least every hour. Wear support hose and move your feet and toes frequently. Drink plenty of fluids during the flight and choose an aisle seat so you can reach the bathroom easily. Take frequent strolls.

Use common sense during your holiday. Eat healthy and nutritious meals, drink plenty of water and avoid drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Try to get some form of exercise each day. Pick a destination that will be rejuvenating to your body, mind and spirit. You deserve a little fun, so enjoy yourself and bon voyage!
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist