TRAVELLING DURING PREGNANCY
A few exceptions aside (destination, trimester, physical condition of the mother and baby, etc.) there is no contraindication to travelling during pregnancy. However, in order to avoid issues and bad surprises, expecting women should take a few things into consideration when planning a trip.
1st trimester: here are no contraindications to travel during your first trimester, but many women experience nausea, heartburn and exhaustion that can limit their ability to enjoy a trip. It is also the period during which miscarriages are common, so be aware of that possibility, whether you are home or abroad.
2nd trimester: it is usually the best time to travel, during which most pregnant women regain energy and experience less digestive problems. The risks of having a miscarriage are considerably lower and the mobility has not been affected by the pregnancy yet.
3rd trimester: it can be an uncomfortable time of the pregnancy due to hot flushes, nausea, water retention, sleep issues and the baby's position sometimes pushing on organs. The capacity to travel or not during the last trimester must be discussed with the healthcare professional following the pregnancy, the insurer and the air carrier, as risks of complications and premature birth increase after week 29.
Train is considered to be the safest transportation during pregnancy as it allows you to walk freely and stretch your legs.
Long hauls are to be avoided if you have no control over the stops (like tour buses and shuttles without frequent pauses).
At an advanced point of your pregnancy, the seatbelt must be worn below the bump, but above the hip bones.
Contact the air carrier before booking to inquire about their pregnancy policy (usually, airlines accept pregnant women up to 36 weeks for a regular pregnancy and up to 32 for a multiple pregnancy).
Ask them if you need to provide a ‘’fit to fly’’ letter from your healthcare provider (which is the case most of the time after 28 weeks).
Metal detectors and body scans are safe for mama and baby as they emit a very low-frequency electromagnetic field that is considered to be harmless, but you can ask for a manual search if it worries you too much.
Pick the alley seat to be able to get up and walk whenever you need to.
Sitting for an extended period of time can put you at risk of varicose veins and phlebitis (leg-vein thrombosis that can lead up to a pulmonary embolism). To prevent complications, wear compression socks and get up to walk around every hour or so.
Altitude is not an issue in a plane because the cabin is pressurized.
Contact your insurer before booking a trip to get information about the pregnancy coverage (companies will usually cover healthy women until week 31 if the healthcare provider approves of the trip).
Make sure you have adequate coverage for premature birth and complications, sanitary repatriation and coverage for the newborn if needed, even if you’re planning a trip early in your pregnancy.
Get a trip cancellation policy to avoid wasting money, should a complication preventing you from travelling occurs. Be aware though; you’ll need a valid reason to cancel your trip and exhaustion, anxiety or discomfort won’t be good enough to get a refund. The insurer will probably ask for a medical statement attesting of your inability to travel or a governmental warning about your destination.
Avoid areas where dangerous fetal diseases are present like yellow fever, malaria and zika.
Some countries will put you at a greater risk of food-borne diseases (anisakis, e. coli, hepatitis, listeria, salmonella, toxoplasmosis, etc.) so be extra careful with what you eat and drink.
Heatstroke and dehydration can be particularly harmful during pregnancy and have important consequences on your baby’s development so make sure you stay hydrated (add electrolytes to your water if needed), wear a hat and find shelter in the shade every now and then.
Choose a destination where quality health cares are available.
It is better to avoid high altitude cities during pregnancy (more than 2,500 m or 8,200 ft).
Although it would be better for all expecting women to get approval from the OBGYN, physician or midwife following their pregnancy, those presenting a high risk condition like placenta previa, pre-eclampsia and obesity should definitely seek medical advice before planning a trip to learn about the contraindications and potential complications.
Make sure to bring your pregnancy logbook so that healthcare providers abroad have access to your medical record if needed.
Live virus vaccines are typically not safe to use during pregnancy, while inactivated vaccines are okay. Ask your doctor if you have the immunization required to travel and what type of medication you can take.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to avoid intense activities like riding a quad, scuba diving, zip lining and rollercoasters. Ask your health professional if you can partake in lower adrenaline activities like hiking, sailing or snorkelling.
Every woman is unique, and so is every pregnancy. There is no point in comparing yourself or be disappointed if your physical or mental state doesn’t match your travel plans. Keep in mind that your maternity leave might just be the perfect moment to fulfill the travel projects you had to put on hold for your baby’s sake!