Women have different attitudes towards traveling during pregnancy. While some are excited, others get worried and ask, “Is it safe for me to travel?”. Whether or not it is safe to travel depends on how far along you are, complications in your pregnancy, your destination and mode of travel, and your overall comfort level.
For most women, traveling is okay for most of their pregnancy period. However, there are things that you need to keep in mind and need to do to ensure your baby’s safety and yours.
The Effect of Traveling During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should be advised against prolonged sitting during travel. Because of the increased levels of clotting factors and plasma fibrinogen that normally occurs during pregnancy, there is an increased risk of developing thromboembolism with prolonged sitting. The recommendation is a maximum of 6 hours a day driving, with stops made at least every 2 hours for 10 minutes to allow the woman to walk around. Walking will increase venous return from her legs.
While abroad, pregnant woman may experience fatigue, heartburn, gastrointestinal problems and discomfort, vaginal discharge, leg cramps, increased urination, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids with similar frequence as they would occur at home. In road and air travel, seat belts should be fastened low over the pelvis. Air travel late in pregnancy might precipitate labor; therefore, most airlines have set different limitations, depending on the duration of the flight, with the most frequent cut off being at 35 weeks.
Moreover, in all prolonged travels, pregnant women should also wear elastic support stockings or hoses while moving around every hour. Heparin prophylaxis may be indicated and should be discussed with the obstetrician. Because of the low humidity of flights, hydration is crucial for the pregnant traveler, particularly for placental flow. The fetus is considered safe from desaturation during routine commercial airline flights.
On the other hand, travel is not recommended for pregnant women with medical or obstetric problems that could result in emergencies. In the pre-travel assessment of pregnant travelers, the travel medicine advisor should work closely with the obstetrician.
Tips and Safety Measures When Traveling During Your Pregnancy
- 1. The best time to travel is during the second trimester between weeks 18 and 28. You will have more energy, feel better, and complications are less likely to occur. In the first trimester, you may have morning sickness or feel tired. In the third trimester, you may find it hard to sit or stand for long periods, have difficulty getting in and out of tight spaces, and you may tire easily.
- 2. Avoid overdoing things when traveling. Pregnancy does impose some restrictions. Discuss any travel plans with your healthcare provider before you make final plans or buy tickets.
- 3. Limit the amount of time you’re away from home.
- 4. Avoid areas in which good medical care is unavailable or where changes in climate, food, or altitude could cause problems.
- 5. Choose the best mode of travel that will get you to your destination in the least amount of time.
- 6. Don’t plan a trip during your last month of pregnancy.
- 7. If you have any problems such as bleeding or cramping, don’t travel.
- 8. If you’re uncomfortable or your hands or feet swell, sitting in a car or on a plane, or walking a lot, may make matters worse.
- 9. Take a copy of your medical records with you.
- 10. Keep your healthcare provider’s name and contact number handy in case of an emergency.
- 11. If you’re pregnancy is considered high risk, don’t travel during pregnancy.
- 12. If you have problems with swelling, wear loose-fitting shoes and clothes.
- 13. Avoid long flights, especially non stop overseas or cross-country flights. It’s difficult to make long journeys without being able to move around much.
- 14. During air travel, pre order special meals if your flight includes food. Choose low-sodium or vegetarian if you want to avoid foods that might cause you problems. Or you can bring you own food. Choose foods that travel well, such as cheese and crackers, fruit, a prepackaged salad or a sandwich made at home. Bring your own water bottle and fill it up before you board the plane.
- 15. If you experience nausea when traveling, carry crackers or another bland snack food to nibble on. Prop up your feet when you sit for any length of time.
- 16. Get up and move when you can during flight. Try to walk around at least 10 minutes every hour. Sometimes just standing up helps your circulation. Ask for an aisle seat close to the bathroom.
- 17. You can ride on trains as they have wide aisles and roomy seats, and the ride is smooth. Moving around may also be easier.
- 18. Bus trips and sailing ships may not be good choices. On a bus, most likely there is no space for your legs and it will be uncomfortable. In ships, sea sickness could add to pregnancy discomforts that you may already be experiencing.
- 19. Limit car travel to no more than 5 hours a day because sitting for long periods of time affects circulation. Stop at regular intervals to take short walks and use the bathroom.
- 20. When sitting in a car, tuck a pillow into the small of your back. Do ankle circles to increase circulation in your feet and legs.
Following the aforementioned steps will help you protect yourself and especially your unborn child from harm. Being prepared before you go traveling will ease your mind and make your trip much more enjoyable.
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