Travelling when pregnant
By Mikaela G. Martinez-Bucu, M.D.
It’s summer, the best time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Pregnancy should not hinder your wanderlust, but remember that it would be more difficult to travel with your baby in tow. Here are some reminders to get you started:
Before making any travel plans, seek clearance from your obstetrician. For most pregnant women, travelling is generally safe as long as there are no complications such as preeclampsia, preterm labor, ruptured bag of waters and multifetal gestation to name a few. A pre-travel evaluation should include a review of your immunization record so that appropriate vaccines may be given prior to your departure.
The timing of travel is also an important consideration. It should not be too early into your pregnancy since you may experience nausea, vomiting and fatigue during the first trimester and these can make it difficult for you to enjoy your trip. On the other end of the spectrum, travelling during the third trimester may not be too wise if you are at risk for preterm labor. For a healthy pregnancy and fetus, travel may be permitted up to the 36th week.
The recommended time to travel is during the second trimester, between the 14th to 28th week of gestation. By this time, the discomforts of the first trimester would have subsided and it would be easier for you to withstand travelling time and more comfortable to move around to explore new sites.
Pack a copy of your medical records
Always bring a copy of your medical records when travelling. Check the airline or cruise ship guidelines for pregnant travellers so you can accomplish the necessary paperwork to avoid delay when boarding.
Choose destinations wisely
Hot and humid destinations may be difficult to enjoy. But as long as you avoid getting overheated by staying out of the sun and keeping hydrated, this does not pose any threat to your pregnancy. For destinations with high altitudes, clearance should be obtained. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no studies show harm to the fetus if the visit to high altitude is kept brief and ascent is done at a slow pace. However, it is best to avoid sleeping altitudes of more than 12,000 feet.
Travel is not recommended to areas with Zika virus, malaria, and other mosquito-carried illnesses that are dangerous for pregnant women. For a current list of Zika and malaria outbreak areas, as well as other areas that may pose risks for pregnant women, visit www.nc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/.
As with all travellers, strict hand hygiene as well as food and water precautions should always be practiced.
Tips when Travelling:
1. Walk and stretch regularly
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which a blood clot forms in the veins in the dependent portions of the body, most commonly in the leg or thigh. Remaining seated or immobile for long periods of time, such as during long-distance travel, can increase the risk of DVT. Pregnancy itself further increases the risk of DVT since it is a hypercoagulable state. In order to avoid DVT, wear loose clothes and keep the blood flowing in your legs by moving your toes while seated. Make sure to stand up, walk and stretch every two hours, especially during long flights or drives. You may also ask your obstetrician about wearing compression or support stockings, which keep the blood from pooling in your lower extremities, minimizing the swelling of the feet and ankles.
Keep hydrated to prevent swelling and reduce the risk of forming blood clots. Make sure you always have a bottle of water on hand while travelling to prevent headaches and fatigue that can be caused by dehydration.
3. Do not delay bathroom trips
If you feel the urge to go to the bathroom, please go! Do not risk developing a urinary tract infection or constipation. As long as there is access to the bathroom, better to try to go than postponing it until your bladder is full. For pregnant air travellers, choose a seat by the aisle to make trips to the bathroom easier.
4. Bring your “pregnancy survival kit”
Pack your prenatal vitamins and other over-the-counter medications that you may need such as paracetamol, antacid, saline nasal spray, etc. Work with your obstetrician to find out which prescription drugs she would like you to bring for emergencies. Include first aid supplies as well for any minor cuts, burns and scratches (Iodine solution, cotton balls, gauze, burn ointment, band aids, etc). Add an anti-bug spray to your kit to prevent bug bites.
5. Get travel insurance
For complications that may arise during your trip, it is best to get yourself insured for the duration of your travel. Travelling while pregnant can be an enjoyable experience. Make sure you take it easy and relax during the trip. You will need the much-deserved rest and all the sleep you can get before baby arrives.
Mikaela G. Martinez-Bucu, MD, FPOGS, FPSRM is a Clinical Associate Professor at the UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital (UPPGH) and Active Consultant at Manila Doctors Hospital. She is a graduate of the UP-PGH where she also completed her OBGYN residency and her fellowship training in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. As a new mother to a one-year old son, she is an advocate for breastfeeding and Early Intrapartum and Newborn Care/EINC (Unang Yakap).