As global travel continues to rise, so does the number of expectant mothers traveling, both for leisure or business. If you are traveling while pregnant, consider the timing of your trip, your travel destination and these helpful tips.
The stress and demands of domestic and international travel are great – airport delays, lost luggage, cancelled flights, the risk of catching a simple cold from airplane air systems or even contracting a serious disease at your destination.
For women who are traveling with a little passenger, special considerations must be taken and adhered to as a measure of protecting both the mother and the child.
Travel timing: Consider the stages of your pregnancy
Travelling during the first and second trimester holds little risk to a pregnancy, but expectant mothers are more likely to experience nausea in the first trimester.
It is recommended that those in their third trimester – from weeks 28 to 40 – do not travel at all unless it is a business or family emergency.
Some airlines require a letter from a physician if traveling after week 26, check the airline’s policy before booking to ensure you are not denied boarding at the gate.
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Destination: Beware of areas with health advisories
Both malaria and the Zika virus are contracted by mosquitoes.
Malaria in pregnant women can increase the risk of serious complications, including premature birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth (Try to use this mosquitoes repellents).
Contracting the Zika virus risks the unborn child being born with severe birth defects, including microcephaly. Measles and other once-eradicated diseases have also been on the rise across the globe and most carry the risk of pregnancy complications.
Check your country’s national health website to evaluate the level of risk if you are traveling to a country where malaria, measles, Zika virus or other diseases are prevalent, make sure to schedule a pre-travel exam with your obstetrician to evaluate all risks.
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If you decide to travel to potentially risky areas, determine with your doctor if the malaria vaccine or other vaccines are safe for you and the baby, wear lots of mosquito repellent and make sure your hotel provides mosquito netting for your bed.
Expectant mothers need to be hypervigilant
Extra Precautions: Expectant mothers need to be hypervigilant when considering common travel concerns that would otherwise be low risk
The risk of contracting a tropical or airborne disease pales in comparison to the fact that the leading cause of injury for travelers while abroad is a result of motor vehicle crashes [Source: U.S. CDC].
Always wear a seat belt when traveling in a motor vehicle, use one if a bus or coach has them installed and always use a safety belt when using taxis and rideshare services.
Do not board overcrowded buses, trains or subways where you can be crushed and are exposed to an unreasonable concentration of airborne germs and bacteria.
Traveler’s diarrhea is a common concern for travelers going abroad but can be life-threatening to an expectant mother and her unborn child.
Diarrhea causes dehydration, which can be extremely dangerous for a pregnant woman.
Tips for healthy consumption of food and beverage for women who are traveling while pregnant:
👉Avoid eating at buffets or cafeterias where food may have been sitting at unsafe temperatures for too long
👉Make sure you consume only meat, fish and poultry that has been cooked to well-done
👉Do not eat raw fruit or vegetables unless you know they have been washed with clean, purified water
👉Drink only sealed beverages from brands that are familiar to you
👉Do not consume any dairy products that are not pasteurized
👉Do not take gastrointestinal products containing bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate. These medicines are not recommended for pregnant women.
👉If you have severe diarrhea for more than 24-48 hours, you should call or email your doctor or travel insurance provider to determine if you need to be seen by a physician
You’re healthy for travel, now what?
If your obstetrician determines that you are safe for travel you can embark on your holiday, leisure or business trip with assurance. With careful planning and packing, you greatly increase your chances of having an enjoyable and medically uneventful trip.
-> Pack healthy snacks, especially if you crave certain foods that you may not be able to purchase at the airport or at your destination
-> Carry a letter from your doctor stating that you are healthy for travel
-> Bring anti-nausea medication–especially in the first trimester
-> Pack a blood pressure monitor if you are experiencing hypertension
Create a list of accredited doctors, clinics and hospitals where you are traveling to should you experience any complications
Purchase a travel medical insurance policy that will cover complications from pregnancy
Most travel insurance policies don’t cover delivery but will cover complications or an emergency C-section if deemed medically necessary
Request an aisle seat for easy restroom access
Wear loose comfortable clothes and shoes on the flight
Stretch, get up and walk up and down the aisle at least once or twice an hour to increase circulation and prevent swelling and pain
If you need to fly more than 5-6 hours to get to your destination, consider booking the trip in two legs so you can rest overnight in a hotel room and reduce the risk of complications
About the Author
Kristi Myllenbeck is a travel insurance expert and content specialist at VisitorsCoverage whose mission is to keep travelers updated with the latest and most relevant travel insurance information.