Traveling while pregnant can create some stress for moms-to-be who worry about staying healthy and safe on the road, in the air, or on the water. But for most expectant women, travel is considered OK and actually often encouraged. It’s a great idea to take a fun getaway with a friend or partner before the baby arrives and consumes your free time. Before you go, though, here are some things to consider.
Get the OK from your doctor.
“Women who have any high-risk pregnancy medical conditions, including twins, placenta previa, high blood pressure, or history of preterm labor, should discuss any travel plans with their health care provider prior to booking,” advises Sherry Ross, MD, OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and author of She-ology.
Even if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, you’ll probably want to be sure your doctor approves of your plans. Certain destinations, activities, and timelines may not be ideal for you.
Time it right.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, traveling while pregnant is best done in the second trimester, between weeks 14 and 28. This tends to be when women feel their best. Morning sickness may not be a problem anymore, energy is higher, and you won’t feel as heavy or tired as you may in the third trimester.
Traveling in the third trimester isn’t completely off-limits. Still, you definitely don’t want to cut it too close to your due date, at the risk of delivering your baby away from home. “Airlines allow pregnant women to fly up to 36 weeks domestically and even earlier if flying internationally,” Ross notes. “Your obstetrician will have their own ‘stop’ date. I generally recommend pregnant women stop flying after 34 weeks.”
Consider your destination carefully.
“No matter where you’re visiting, if you have an unexpected pregnancy complication, such as preterm labor, this could be the place where you may be stuck for days or weeks without your planned support team,” Ross says, so it’s important to plan carefully. Make sure there are good medical facilities nearby and take note of the nearest hospital in case you encounter an emergency when traveling while pregnant.
It’s also important not to choose a destination where there’s malaria or Zika virus outbreak. These conditions are dangerous for pregnant women and unborn babies, so it’s best to avoid these areas completely.
Bring more than just your passport or ID.
Grace Godwin, labor and delivery nurse and creator of LaborMom.com, advises asking your doctor for copies of your medical records to bring on your trip.
“So often, I treat pregnant mamas who are ‘just traveling through,'” Godwin says. “We can take care of them, of course, but it is always so helpful to have a copy of their medical history and prenatal record. It’s a small preparation to take but could make a big difference in obtaining the proper care in case of an emergency or early labor.”
Don’t sweat the TSA screening.
When traveling while pregnant by plane, some women worry about going through security and the potential for radiation exposure. However, Ross says TSA screening machines are considered safe. Unlike medical X-ray machines, which use high doses of radiation, airport machines use electromagnetic waves that are “reflected off the body and do not go through the body.”
But “if a pregnant woman is still uncomfortable walking through those intimidating machines, a pat down is always an alternative while going through airport security,” Ross adds.
Prevent blood clots.
Sitting for long periods of time can put you at risk for blood clots, and pregnancy further increases that risk. So plan frequent stops if traveling by car, and take walks to stretch your legs. Get up as much as you can if traveling by plane, and avoid long flights if possible. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and consider wearing compression stockings if you’re flying. They’re not cute, but they increase blood circulation in the legs and reduce the risk of blood clots, Ross says.
Dehydration can cause preterm labor and increases the risk of blood clots. Airplane cabins are extremely dry, and it can be easy to forget to drink often while you’re on the go. Make it a point to hydrate a lot—eight to 12 glasses of water a day. Keep in mind you won’t be able to bring water through security. Pack an empty water bottle to fill at your flight gate, or buy it before you board. Of course, plan for lots of bathroom breaks, too.
Eat and drink healthily while on the road.
“Eating a well-balanced and colorful diet during pregnancy is important,” Ross says. “When traveling, you can bring healthy snacks in your carry-on bag, including protein bars, nuts, trail mix, whole-grain crackers, fruit—fresh and dried, yogurt, peanut butter and veggie individual packets, and granola bars to satisfy your hunger and prevent you having to eat airplane food.”
Avoid getting sick.
Airports, rest stops, and cruise ships are busy places with potentially a lot of germs. We know you’re not interested in getting sick when traveling while pregnant. Ask your doctor about getting the flu shot if you haven’t had one recently. It’s considered safe during pregnancy and can protect you and your baby from the virus.
Also, be extra-diligent about killing and washing away germs. “When traveling, always bring antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your carry-on bag,” Ross advises. “Wipe off common surfaces such as the tray table, TV remote, and other areas around your seat. When using the restroom, wash your hands with the wipes or soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and anyone around you who is coughing or sneezing.”
Another not-so-cute option is to wear a mask on the plane to protect you from airborne germs. Ross says this is probably the most effective way to prevent colds and flu during air travel. All things considered, it may be worth the fashion faux pas.
Plan to exercise, but don’t overdo it.
There’s nothing more enjoyable than taking long walks and planning fun activities when you’re traveling, and it’s important that pregnant women exercise almost every day. But remember to listen to your body and not overdo it.
Avoid overexerting yourself or doing any activity that’s uncomfortable for your pregnant body. Sports and activities where you could get injured or sick, such as skiing and high-altitude hiking, aren’t worth the risks they pose. Instead, take walks, sign up for a prenatal yoga class, or take a spin on a stationary bike while you’re enjoying all that your destination offers. Bon voyage!