During pregnancy, it's generally safe for pregnant women to travel safely, but some precautions must be taken depending on where you are traveling and your state of pregnancy and health.
Pregnancy changes affecting travel
Pregnant women experience physiologic changes that require special consideration during travel. These include weight gain, having to use the bathroom frequently, and trouble carrying heavy things. In addition, pregnant women should be aware of potential infections that can be contracted in some countries. These areas should be avoided.
General precautions when traveling
- Be careful about what you are eating and drinking
- Use 4-wheel luggage that's easy to move around
- Prevent bug bites
- Stay safe outdoors
- Keep away from animals
- Reduce your exposure to germs
- Avoid sharing body fluids
- Know how to get medical care while traveling
- Select safe transportation
- Maintain personal security
Travel precautions with high-risk pregnancies
Most doctors feel it's safe to travel during the first 8 months of pregnancy unless you have a high-risk pregnancy. The main concerns with travel during pregnancy are:
- Risk of preterm delivery
- Access to medical care
- Food concerns
- Communicable diseases
- Getting enough exercise and fluids
- Maintaining a healthy diet
If you have any medical or obstetric complications, such as the risk for preterm birth, poorly controlled diabetes, placental problems, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, your provider may recommend to not travel during your pregnancy.
Generally, in low-risk pregnancies the safest time to travel during pregnancy is in the second trimester (13 to 28 weeks).
If you plan to travel, discuss the trip with your health care provider. Talk about the distance and length of the trip, the mode of travel, and any suggestions for things you should or should not do before, during, and after the trip.
Generally, the safest time to travel during pregnancy is the second trimester (13 to 28 weeks). At this time you probably feel your best and you are in the least danger of having a miscarriage or premature labor. While traveling in and by itself is unlikely to increase your risks, there is always a possibility of complications, especially premature labor and delivery. So you need to ask yourself whether you feel safe having a baby wherever you are traveling to.
Avoid traveling any long distance during the last 2 or 3 weeks before your due date. If labor starts early, you will want to be close to home.
What are the general guidelines for travel during pregnancy?
- See your health care provider just before you leave on your trip. Ask your provider if you will need any prenatal care visits while you are traveling, and if so, where you might go for prenatal care.
- Take a copy of your prenatal record with you.
- Ask your health care provider for the name of a doctor in the city or area you will be visiting.
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes and loose-fitting clothes.
- Eat healthy meals and snacks. Meals may be unpredictable while traveling. Carry snacks with you. Eat enough fiber in your meals to avoid constipation.
- Drink plenty of water. Carry a water bottle with you.
- Do not take any medicines, including nonprescription medicines, without your health care provider's permission.
- Get up and walk often while you are traveling. Stop walking when you are tired.
- Get enough sleep and rest to avoid tiredness. Sleep on a firm mattress.
- If you have to sit for a long time, alternate pointing and raising your feet often. Walking and moving your arms improves blood flow in your body. This prevents blood clots from forming in the legs and pelvis.
- Keep your travel plans as flexible as possible. Problems may develop at the last minute and you might have to cancel your trip. Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not plan any trips during the third trimester of your pregnancy.
What are the guidelines for traveling by car?
Do not ride in the car for more than 6 hours each day. Stop every 1 to 2 hours for some exercise, such as walking.
- Always wear a seatbelt. A seat belt is safe for both the mother and baby when worn properly. If the seat belt is only a lap belt, place it below your abdomen. If you have a shoulder and lap belt, place the lap portion under your abdomen and the shoulder belt across your shoulder and between the breasts. Be sure that the seat belt fits snugly. Airbags are safe but you must also wear the seat belt. The gas used in airbags won't hurt you or the baby. If you are in an accident, you should see a doctor to make sure you and your baby are fine.
- Adjust your seat as far from the dashboard or steering wheel as possible.
- Motorcycle travel is not recommended during pregnancy.
What if I am traveling by bus or train?
- You may have less opportunity to walk every couple of hours when you travel by bus. Take advantage of any stops the bus makes to get some exercise.
- When you are traveling by train, get up and walk every hour or two.
- Remember that there are fewer bathrooms on a bus than a train.
- The motion of a train ride will not cause any problems with the pregnancy, and it won't start labor either.
Are there special concerns for traveling by air?
Flying is usually a safe way to travel. Most domestic airlines will allow a pregnant woman to fly up to the 36th week of pregnancy if there are no problems with the pregnancy. Each airline has policies regarding pregnancy and flying. Check with your airline when you reserve your tickets to see if you need to complete any medical forms.
Suggested guidelines for traveling by air:
- Try to get an aisle seat at the bulkhead (the wall that separates first class from coach) to have the most space and comfort. If you are more concerned about a smoother ride, you may prefer a seat over the wing in the midplane region.
- Wear layered clothing because the temperature in the cabin may change during the flight.
- Drink a lot of fluids because the air in the plane can be very dry.
- If you want a special meal on the plane, you can usually order it in advance on most flights.
- Eat small meals to help avoid air sickness.
- During smooth flights, walk every half hour and flex and stretch your ankles often to avoid swelling.
- Wear a seat belt below your abdomen whenever you are in your seat.
- Get extra rest after long flights to help avoid jet lag.
Are there any problems with traveling by sea or ship?
Seasickness is a concern for many people traveling by sea. Your healthcare provider may recommend a medicine that helps prevent motion sickness and is safe during pregnancy. You might also consider trying acupressure wristbands.
Be aware that the medical services on a ship are very limited.
What are the guidelines for traveling internationally?
You should not travel out of the country without discussing it first with your healthcare provider. Your provider may decide foreign travel is not safe for you. If it is safe, your provider will let you know what should be done before you leave and when you arrive at your destination. You may want to register with an American Embassy or Consulate after you arrive. It is important to make sure you have had all the shots you need for the countries you are planning to visit. Some immunizations cannot be given to pregnant women.
Make sure your health insurance is valid abroad and during pregnancy. Also, check that the policy covers a newborn if you were to give birth during your travels.
Be especially cautious about what you eat in countries where traveler's diarrhea might be a problem. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which reduces the blood flow to the placenta and your baby.
- Do not drink untreated water, including ice cubes in drinks.
- Avoid food and beverages from street vendors.
- Only eat foods that are cooked and still hot, or fruits and vegetables that you peel yourself.
- Do not eat raw or partially cooked fish or shellfish, including dishes like ceviche. Fully cooked fish and shellfish are safe.
- Brushing your teeth with untreated water is usually safe. Most toothpaste contains antibacterial substances. Do not swallow the water.
- Carbonated soft drinks and water, bottled water, wine, and beer are usually safe without ice. Do not add ice that has been made from tap water.
- Avoid uncooked dairy products. Make sure the milk you drink is pasteurized.
- Ask your health care provider what medicines are safe to take to help prevent traveler's diarrhea when you are pregnant.