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Travel During Pregnancy

Travel during pregnancy can be a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience. Although traveling is not recommended if you have problems with the pregnancy or serious medical problems, almost every woman can travel safely until the last four weeks of the pregnancy. After that, you should travel only when it is absolutely necessary and only after clearance by your doctor because there are many problems and complications that can develop in late pregnancy. The second trimester (13 to 28 weeks), the time of fewest complications, is probably the best time to travel. During this time, you are also most likely to be over your morning sickness, you feel more comfortable and you have more energy. Before planning any distant traveling, however, you should discuss your trip with your doctor. Travel by motorcycle is not recommended.

DIFFERENT WAYS TO TRAVEL

BY CAR

  • Do not travel more than six hours a day. Sitting too long increases the risk of swelling in your legs and feet and increases the chance of your getting a blood clot in the leg.
  • Always wear a seat belt. The lap belt should be worn below your abdomen and across your upper thighs. The shoulder strap should be worn across your shoulder and between your breasts.
  • If you are riding in the front seat or driving a car equipped with air bags, sit as far away from the dashboard as possible.
  • Stop every hour or two and walk around. This will increase the circulation in your legs and help prevent swelling and blood clots.

BY BUS

  • Be aware that when you travel by bus you will not be able to get out and walk around every couple of hours as you would if you were traveling by car.
  • Also be aware that there may be only one restroom on the bus, which could be more difficult to get to and use, especially if the bus is crowded.
  • Walk around and stretch your arms, legs and back if you can when the bus makes stops. You should not be up and walking around when the bus is moving, except if you need to go to the restroom.
  • Move your arms and legs at least every hour while sitting to help increase your circulation, which will decrease your risk of swelling in your legs and feet and getting a blood clot in the leg.

BY TRAIN

  • Trains have wider aisles than buses, making it easier to walk and to move your arms and legs when sitting for exercise. Move your arms and legs at least every hour or two while sitting to help increase your circulation, which will decrease your risk of swelling in your legs and feet and getting a blood clot in the leg.
  • Trains have only a few restrooms but they are more accessible than those on buses.
  • There are usually sleepers available for long or overnight trips.

BY SHIP

  • Before signing on to take a cruise, check with the cruise line to see if there are regulations restricting travel for pregnant women and what kind of medical care is available on the ship you will be taking.
  • Also ask if there are any medical facilities at the ports of call you plan to visit.
  • Ask your doctor to give you medication to avoid motion sickness that is safe for the baby. You may also want to consider using acupressure wristbands to help prevent seasickness.
  • Take extra care while walking on the cruise ship. The continuous movement of the ship may increase risk of falling.

BY PLANE

  • Travel on major airlines whose planes have pressurized cabins and avoid flying on smaller planes at altitudes above 7,000 feet.
  • If you want something other than the usual airline food, you can order a special meal when you make your reservation.
  • Most airlines will allow passengers to fly up to 36 weeks of pregnancy, but check with your doctor before flying, especially after your 28th week.
  • Put any prescription medications and necessary items in your carry-on bag so you will not be without them should your luggage be lost.
  • Try to get a seat in the bulkhead, the area immediately in front of the partitions that separate cabin compartments. There is more room for you to move your feet and legs in those seats than in the ones that have other seats directly in front of them.
  • Make sure to move your arms and legs every hour to reduce the risk of getting blood clots.
  • Get an aisle seat so you can walk in the aisle and use the restroom more easily.
  • Wear a couple layers of light clothes because the cabin temperature can change rapidly.
  • Drink a couple glasses of water before takeoff because the air in the cabin is dry and you want to avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid caffeine because it increases urine production and can result in dehydration.
  • To avoid getting airsick, do not eat a lot before takeoff.
  • Always wear your seat belt when sitting in your seat to decrease the likelihood of injury if there is unexpected turbulence.
  • After a long flight, get a lot of rest to help offset the effects of jet lag.

TRAVEL TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY

  • Make sure you have the proper immunizations for travel to any country you plan to visit. For information about immunizations you need in the area you are going and other safety information, call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 800-311-3435, or go to their Web site: www.cdc.gov.
  • Discuss your travel plans, including any recommended immunizations, with your doctor before taking a trip out of the country.
  • Before taking the trip, contact the U.S. State Department to get the telephone number for the Regional Security Officer (RSO) for the country or countries you plan to visit. You can reach the State Department at (202) 647-4000, or via the Internet at www.travel.state.gov. The RSO can give you information about the weather, disease outbreaks, exchange rates and any high-crime areas you should avoid during your visit.
  • Ask your doctor for medication for travelers diarrhea that is safe for the baby.
  • Call your medical insurance company to make sure you and your baby are covered if you need hospital care during your trip.
  • Do not drink untreated water or use ice made with untreated water.
  • Eat only cooked foods.
  • Be sure any milk you drink is pasteurized.
  • Make and take copies of your passport and other important papers in case you lose the originals.
  • To discourage pickpockets, put your money, important papers and passport in a fanny pack and wear it in front, rather than behind you.
  • When you get to your destination, find out where doctors and hospitals are located.
  • Before you leave, you can buy emergency assistance medical and evacuation insurance at: www.travelguard.com.

WHEN TO CALL A DOCTOR

Go to an emergency room or call a doctor right away (day or night) if:

  • You arrive at your destination and think you are having problems with your pregnancy or other medical problems.
  • You became ill during your trip and need medical attention.

Call a doctor during regular office hours for an appointment if:

  • You think you need to be seen before returning home.
  • You ran out of prescription medication that you must take.

PREPARING FOR TRAVEL BY ANY MEANS

  • Schedule a prenatal visit a day or two before your trip.
  • Take with you only those medications approved by your doctor.
  • Carry copies of your prenatal and medical records.
  • When possible, get the name of a doctor in the area where you will be staying.
  • Get a good night?s sleep before leaving.
  • Whenever possible, carry a light snack (such as crackers and fruit) and something to drink.
  • Travel in loose clothes and comfortable shoes.
  • If it will help you sleep more comfortably while you?re away from home, take your favorite pillow with you.
  • It?s a good idea to limit your time in transit when you?re pregnant, so choose the quickest way possible to get to your destination.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

REFERENCES

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    • ACOG Patient Education, Pregnancy,APO55, 2001, Travel During Pregnancy
    • ACOG Committee Opinion, Number 264, December 2001, Air Travel During Pregnancy
  • Passport Health


Last reviewed: November 2008
Last revised: December 2008

View Anatomic Index of Topics

Developed by SelfCareNet, Inc.

Favorably Reviewed by the University of Colorado Denver
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

SelfCareNet, Inc. Copyright (C) 2008 All Rights Reserved.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new healthcare information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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