Most pregnant women can travel safely until close to their due date. But the guidelines for traveling can vary, based on how far along you are, your level of discomfort, your methods and destination of travel, and whether your pregnancy is high risk. Talk to your doctor before you begin to plan your trip -- certain kinds of travel during pregnancy may not be recommended if you have health problems that need special medical care.
Before departing, ask your doctor for:
- A full checkup
- The name of a doctor in the area where you will be staying in case of an emergency
- A copy of your medical record to take with you if you
- A list of safe nonprescription medications, such as motion-sickness pills or laxatives
If you're traveling overseas, make sure:
- You have all necessary immunizations
- You know whether the food and water are safe at your destination
- Your medical insurance is valid overseas
- You are aware of symptoms that may indicate contraction of a disease
If you're having a healthy pregnancy, have gotten your doctor's okay, and have received your essential medical information, there aren't many extra safety precautions that need to be taken.
Despite many people's fears, flying is generally safe during pregnancy. Most airlines in the United States allow pregnant women to fly up to 36 weeks. Metal detectors used for airport security checks are not harmful to the fetus and, contrary to an old wives tale, bumpy rides on a plane, train, or bus do not induce labor.
The one essential safety precaution is to wear a seat belt. A lap-shoulder belt is ideal, but if only a lap belt is available, use it. Place the lap belt under your abdomen and across your upper thighs so that it fits as snugly and comfortably as possible. Put the shoulder belt between your breasts and across your shoulder. Adjust your seat so that the belt doesn't rub your neck. Never slip the shoulder belt off your shoulder. Seat belts worn too loosely or too high on the abdomen can cause broken ribs or injure your abdomen.
Some women worry that a seat belt will hurt the fetus if the car stops quickly or if there is an impact. Unless the mother has a serious injury, the fetus is not likely to be harmed. The baby is cushioned in a fluid-filled sac inside the uterus, which is protected by muscles, organs and bones. If you are in a car accident, though, you should see your doctor to make sure that you and your baby are okay.
If your travel dates are flexible, plan your vacation for your second trimester (14 weeks to 28 weeks of pregnancy). By this time your body has adjusted to pregnancy and will probably be much more comfortable for traveling. Many of the problems that accompany the first trimester, including morning sickness and lack of energy, disappear by the second trimester. Toward the end of your pregnancy, it may be harder for you to move around and sit for a long time. Keep your travel plans as flexible as you can. Last-minute problems could lead you to cancel the trip.
When deciding on a method of travel, consider that the quickest way may be the most comfortable. If you're not going far, traveling by car might be the right choice. This allows you to stop and go as you please. Spending too much time in the car can be uncomfortable, so don't plan to do more than five or six hours of driving each day.
You can also travel by bus or train. Buses have narrow aisles and small bathrooms. Trains have more space for walking around. They are wobbly, though, so balance might be a problem. Sea travel may upset your stomach. If you've never been on a ship before, this is not a good time to try it.
Here are some helpful comfort hints for your trip:
- Walk around often. Get on your feet every hour or so. This will keep swelling down and help make you more comfortable.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Also make sure that your stockings and clothing don't bind.
- Dress in layers. Wear layers of light clothing that will allow you to bundle up or remove a layer or two. Choose clothes in cotton or wool that absorb sweat.
- Pack snacks. Take some crackers, juice, or other light snacks to prevent nausea.
- Drink plenty of fluids. The air may be very dry on a plane, bus, or train and your body has the potential to become dehydrated.
- Add fiber to your diet. Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy and tends to be exacerbated by travel.
- If you're flying, get an aisle seat. Aisle seats allow you to walk around and get to the bathroom easily. The front of the plane tends to have a smoother ride than the back.
- Sit near the front of a bus, train, or plane. The ride tends to be smoother in the front and you'll be less likely to suffer from motion sickness.
- Sleep on a firm mattress. To prevent back problems, make sure your mattress offers adequate support, sit in chairs with strong back support, and stretch your back muscles from time to time.
- Maintain your daily routine. Eat three balanced meals a day and keep your sleep schedule as close to normal as possible.
- Leave yourself extra time for sleeping. Travel usually tires people out, but this is especially true when you're pregnant. Allow for extra rest after arriving at your destination and returning home.
Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.