Travel Tips for Expecting Mothers by Minnie Alcantara
Clear all travel plans with your physician. Whether you’re traveling a few hours by car or across the country by plane, it’s best to get your doctor’s approval before planning any trips during pregnancy. Not only is it reassuring to have your physician’s consent to travel, but you can also get advice if you have any concerns or worries about the trip. It is also good to check in with your obstetrician for any upcoming office visits, lab tests or ultrasounds that will need to be coordinated with your travel plans.
Have your medical contacts and insurance coverage in order. Make sure that you are covered by your insurance at your travel destination. Travel insurance may be a consideration especially if you’re traveling outside the country. Review the travel insurance policies to be sure that the plan covers pregnancy complications in addition to emergency transport from your destination. A copy of your prenatal records may also be useful to pack in the event any unforeseen situations that may occur. It would also be a good idea to familiarize yourself with your destination and research in advance where to go in case you need to seek medical attention during your stay.
Travel during your second trimester.
The best time to take any trips is in the second trimester, between weeks 14 and 28. The risks for miscarriages and premature labor are also the lowest at this time. Plus, during the second trimester you’re feeling your best and have more energy. At this time, the nausea has passed since the first trimester and it is not as difficult to move around or sit for a period of time as it may be in the third trimester.
Traveling by air. Airplanes are a safe way to travel during the recommended period of time in your pregnancy. It is always best to double check with your airline company about their rules and regulations for travelers who are expecting. Most airline companies allow pregnant women to travel up to 36 weeks, but this policy can vary with each airline and policies may be more stringent for international travel.
When you are traveling by plane, arrange for an aisle seat. Not only will this will make it easier to access the restroom, but you will also be able to stretch your legs, which promotes circulation. It is important to keep the blood flow circulating and prevent swelling in your lower legs. It is recommended to walk every 30 minutes and stretch your legs, ankles and feet. While seated, your seatbelt should be fastened under your abdomen and across the tops of the thighs.
It may be challenging to get comfortable on a plane with the limited space, but there are a few things you can do to make the flight more tolerable. Wearing comfortable shoes will definitely be helpful when walking through the airport. Loose articles of clothing in layers will make it easier to adjust during temperature changes. It may even help to purchase pregnancy socks or compression stockings to ensure blood flow circulation while being seated for a period of time. Airlines have very limited food and snack selections, so it is wise to pack snacks for the unpredictable hunger that comes along with pregnancy. Also, you’re drinking for two, so make sure that you keep yourself hydrated with at least 8 glasses of water or decaffeinated fluids throughout the day.
Airport security. Most airport securities require you to walk through metal detectors or a backscatter machine. Fortunately, metal detectors do not give off radiation because they are not X-ray machines. Instead, the metal detectors emit a low-frequency electromagnetic field similar to what an electric household appliance would emanate. This exposure is safe for everyone and should not cause any harm to the baby. However, the backscatter machine is a newer body scanner that does use low levels of radiation. Although the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) claims that radiation exposure from the backscatter machine is minimal, nevertheless, it would be best for pregnant passengers to opt for a “pat down search” instead of going through this body scanner. You may even consider a pat down search in lieu of the metal detector as well.
Roadtrips. It is always safe to be buckled up in a motor vehicle. Make sure to wear the shoulder and lap belt for the best protection. The shoulder belt should rest in between the breasts and the lap belt should rest under the belly/baby, on top of the thighs. Airbags should always be turned on. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the breast bone should be at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel or dashboard and the seat should continuously move back as the belly grows.
There are a few measures you can take to make your car trip more comfortable. It may be helpful to wear comfortable shoes or flip flops to slip off during the ride to make it easier for flexing your ankles and feet. Just like an airplane, it’s important to be able to ambulate and stretch your legs to promote blood circulation and reduce any risk for blood clots. Try to break up the car rides every hour or hour and a half to get out and stretch your legs and walk around. You will likely need to do so anyway to use the rest rooms. Make sure to stay well hydrated during the trip as well as to bring snacks for the car ride. If traveling by train or bus, make sure to hold any railings or seat backs when walking through the aisles to keep your balance. It would be best to stay seated while the train or bus is in motion, but don’t forget to stretch your legs. It may also be a good idea to keep a waterproof bag in the event you experience any motion sickness during the ride.
Traveling by sea. Generally speaking, it should be safe to travel on a cruise ship, however the motion of the boat may bring on nausea or morning sickness all over again for expecting mothers. If you are going on a cruise while pregnant, the best thing to pack would be motion sickness or nausea medication approved by your physician in addition to seasickness bands which can be purchased at a local pharmacy. These bands apply pressure to certain acupressure points which help to alleviate nausea. Always inquire with your cruise line about health care providers on board in addition to access to medical facilities throughout the ship’s route in the event you need to seek medical attention.
Traveling overseas. The same precautions when traveling by air need to be taken when traveling to foreign countries in addition to a few more considerations. International travel should always be discussed with your practitioner to ensure that the trip is safe for the mother and baby. Having the proper and updated immunization is very important when traveling overseas. Make sure to have a copy of your prenatal records and immunizations on hand during your trip. There are many diseases which are rare in the United States but more common in some countries. The best way to protect the mother and baby is to research which vaccinations are recommended before traveling to the region. Additionally, there are vaccinations which are not safe for pregnant woman, so make sure to do your research on the destination. Avoid destinations requiring vaccinations that are not safe for the pregnant mother and baby. A good resource is the Centers for Disease Control website which provides destination specific information.
Food poisoning and diarrhea are the most common concerns when traveling overseas because the mother’s immune system is more susceptible. The mother will not be accustomed to the germs and organisms found in the food and water in foreign countries which will lead to diarrhea and possibly dehydration. Pregnant women need to be mindful to avoid eating certain foods, and when traveling overseas, they must be twice as careful. Avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses, uncooked meats. Vegetables and fruits should be peeled or cooked. Drink plenty of bottled water or canned fruit juices as an alternative. It is not the best time to be adventurous experiencing new types of cuisine if you’re pregnant and traveling overseas.
What to pack. Traveling and packing when pregnant can be tricky because you’ll want your carry-on luggage to be light enough to lift without straining yourself, but you’ll also want to have everything you need to be comfortable. Some of the more important things to have on hand will be your insurance cards, any prenatal records, and possibly even a doctor’s note stating that you are safe to travel along with your due date. It will be very helpful to have a record of emergency contacts if you need to reach your obstetrician or if you need to seek medical attention at your destination. Make sure to pack your prenatal vitamins or any over-the-counter medications you may need if you are traveling overseas. Hand sanitizers are always great to have when traveling since restrooms are not always available for hand washing. Packing comfortable clothes and shoes suitable for the the weather and temperature of your destination is another way to be prepared. You may even consider bringing along a comfortable pillow to ease your trip and keep you comfortable while traveling.
These are just some tips to keep in mind when traveling while expecting. Happy and safe travels!The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.