Traveling While Pregnant: New Rules of Vacation

Planning on taking a trip while pregnant? The authors of The New Rules of Pregnancy are letting you know what you need to think about.
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As practicing OB-GYNs in New York City, we often see our pregnant patients work themselves into a swirl of anxiety. They can’t help but Google every symptom, and the out-of-context, or, worse, incorrect information they find online causes them tremendous and unnecessary stress. We’ve often wished for a concise and positive guide to pregnancy that would soothe our patients by reminding them that their bodies—and their doctors—know what to do. We couldn’t find that book, so we wrote it. 

The New Rules of Pregnancy is conceived to be an antidote to this age of too much information—and to the temptation to obsess and over-research. It’s meant, in part, to restore some of the glow to pregnancy. The idea is to help you take care of things you can control and let go of those you can’t—to encourage you to prepare for what’s ahead but also have faith in the process.

By bringing you the tools we feel you really need in a spirit of calm and joy, we hope our book can help you relax—which is one of the best things you can do for your pregnancy. We encourage you to slow down, to eat well, and in general to lean in to pregnancy. There’s no such thing as a perfect pregnancy or a perfect birth so don’t pressure yourself to experience this process in any certain way. Take care—and take naps! For this 280-day stretch, your body is making a human. Go with that. 

Our patients often have questions about how to adapt their travel practices for pregnancy. Here’s our advice.

New Rules of Vacation

Skip vacation activities that could cause a fall, like riding horses or mopeds, surfing, skiing, or playing in rough waters. Don’t visit altitudes above 6,000 feet (if you’re struggling to breathe, it puts both you and the baby at risk), and no scuba. Pass on cruises—too many germs, such as norovirus. In general, keep yourself out of harm’s way. When you’re not sure about a certain activity or food, opt out.

If there are insects around (this applies at home too), use a product containing 10 to 35 percent DEET. During pregnancy, the risks associated with certain types of insect bites are far worse than those associated with chemical bug repellent. But do your best to cover up with long sleeves, long pants, and a hat.

Don’t go anyplace where there are food or waterborne infections. Obviously, don’t go where there’s Zika. If your partner travels to Zika territory while you’re pregnant, do not have unprotected sex for the entire pregnancy. Got that? Zika can live in the semen. You can use condoms and have sex, but no unprotected sex till the baby is born. (If you’re reading this book in advance of pregnancy and you or your partner has recently been to Zika territory, wait three months to become pregnant.)

Flying Pregnant

Some doctors ask patients not to fly in the first trimester simply because that’s when the chance of miscarriage is highest (while flying won’t cause a miscarriage, you don’t want that to happen on a plane or on a trip). Once you’re cleared for air travel, be vigilant about taking care of yourself in the air. Pregnancy raises your risk of blood clots. Air travel also independently raises the risk of blood clots. So the combination of air travel and pregnancy is something to take seriously. There’s also a higher risk of dehydration in air travel in general, and this is much more significant in pregnancy (it puts you at risk for preterm labor and is another risk factor for clotting). Please take the following precautions:

  • Buy two huge bottles of water for the flight (don’t depend on the drinks carts and those tiny cups).
  • Change your leg position as much as space allows (uncross and cross legs, contract and release muscles).
  • Consider wearing compression stockings on the plane; the support prevents blood from pooling in your legs.
  • Get up and walk around the plane as often as you can (get the blood moving).
  • Stretch while waiting for the restroom (where you will be often, because of all the water you’re drinking).

We suggest caution with air travel within two months of your due date (at that point, in the event that your baby is born early, he would likely be okay with the help of the services at a hospital). Even though you’re unlikely to go into labor this early, if it should happen, you don’t want to be giving birth in the air—or even in a place that’s not home. A newborn’s immune system is vulnerable, and the germy environment of an airplane poses some risk, so your pediatrician may not want you to fly home right away. In those last couple of months, it’s a good idea to stay local.

Excerpted from The New Rules of Pregnancy by Adrienne Simone, M.D., Jaqueline Worth, M.D., and Danielle Claro (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019.



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