With the proper precautions, and armed with information on when to travel, vaccinations and insurance, most women can travel safely well into their pregnancy.
If your pregnancy has no complications, the best time to travel is when you are 14 to 28 weeks pregnant.
Wherever you go, find out what healthcare facilities are at your destination in case you require urgent medical attention.
It’s a good idea to take your medical records with you so you can give doctors the relevant information if necessary. Have a check-up before you travel and don’t go unless you get the all-clear from your doctor.
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for any eventuality, such as pregnancy-related medical care during labour, premature birth and the cost of changing the date of your return trip if you go into labour.
When to travel
Many women prefer not to travel in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy because of the exhaustion and nauseathey experience during these early stages.
The first three months are a sensitive stage, with a higher risk of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. However, if you feel well and you’ve discussed it with your doctor, there’s no reason why you can’t travel at this time.
After week 28, the biggest factor in deciding whether to travel, apart from the issue of comfort, is the risk of going into early labour.
If you decide to go away, consult your doctor, who will determine your risk of a premature birth. If you get the all clear, make sure there are adequate facilities at your destination in case you go into labour.
“Travel during pregnancy is a concern for many women,” says Sarah Reynolds, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Bedford Hospital NHS Trust.
“But if your pregnancy has no complications then there’s no reason why you can’t travel safely as long as you take the right precautions.”
Here are some general tips to ensure you and your baby stay healthy during your travels.
Flying is not harmful for you or your baby, but some airlines will not let you fly towards the end of your pregnancy. Check the conditions with the airline.
The best time to fly is between 14 and 28 weeks, when there’s a lower risk of miscarriage or labour. Consult your doctor before booking your flight.
Long-distance travel (longer than five hours) carries a small risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in pregnant women. If you fly, drink plenty of water and move about regularly.
For long-haul flights, you can buy a pair of flight socks (also called compression stockings), which will reduce leg swelling. Make sure you buy the correct type and size of stocking and know how to wear them correctly, as ill-fitting stockings could further increase the risk of DVT.
Vaccines are not recommended because of concerns that the virus or bacteria in the jab could harm the baby in the womb. You are generally advised to avoid travelling to countries where immunisation is required. Similarly, anti-malaria tablets are not considered safe for pregnant women.
“However, if you must travel to areas requiring inoculation, you should get your jabs,” says Sarah. “The risk of catching an infectious disease far outweighs the risk from vaccination.”
Fatigue and dizziness are common during pregnancy so it’s important to drink regularly, eat natural, energy-giving foods (such as fruit and nuts) and stop regularly for a break.
Keep the air circulating in the car and wear your seatbelt with the cross strap between your breasts and the lap strap across your pelvis rather than your stomach.
Road accidents are among the most common causes of injury in pregnant women. Avoid making long trips on your own and share the driving with your companion.
Travel by boat
Ferry companies have their own restrictions and may refuse to carry heavily pregnant women (often beyond 32 weeks). Check the ferry company’s policy before you book. For longer boat trips, such as cruises, find out if there are onboard facilities to deal with pregnancy and if there are medical services at the docking ports.
Food and drink
Take care to avoid food- and water-borne conditions, such as stomach upsets and travellers’ diarrhoea (TD). Some medicines for treating stomach upsets and TD aren’t suitable during pregnancy.
Always check if tap water is safe. If in doubt, drink bottled water. If you get ill, keep hydrated and continue eating for the health of your baby, even if you may not be hungry.