Being pregnant should not hold you back when it comes to traveling. But before planning your next trip, it’s best to talk with your prenatal care provider to make sure you get the green light. For most women, traveling during pregnancy is safe until 36 weeks, but be prepared to change your plans should the health of you and your baby require it.
Best Time to Travel during Pregnancy
With the most common pregnancy problems occurring in the first and third trimesters, we recommend making travel plans during your second trimester, weeks 14 – 28. At this point in your pregnancy, morning sickness has most likely subsided and you should feel your energy returning. Feeling better and not yet carrying a third trimester-sized baby bump makes the mid pregnancy time period ideal for travel. Yet even though you may be medically cleared for travel, we tell our patients to always let how they’re feeling take the lead when it comes to traveling.
When Not to Travel during Pregnancy
Certain pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia, premature rupture of membranes, and preterm labor, can keep you grounded during your pregnancy. Travel also may not be recommended if you are carrying multiples.
Areas to Avoid Traveling to While Pregnant
Travel is not recommended for pregnant women in areas where Zika outbreaks are ongoing, nor for their partners as Zika is sexually transmitted. Zika is an illness spread by mosquitoes that can cause serious birth defects. Travel also is not recommended to areas with malaria, another mosquito-carried illness that is 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, go to wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/.
For those women planning to conceive, it’s important to avoid zika endemic areas as well. The CDC recommends avoiding travel for 2 months for women and 6 months for men, if planning conception.
How to Prepare for Travel during Pregnancy
When planning travel, it’s critical that your plans be restricted to areas that have good access to OB services – that’s the first recommendation. After that, there are a few simple things to do before traveling that can help insure the best possible experience for you and your baby:
- Schedule a checkup with your OBGYN right before you leave
- Know your estimated due date in the event you have problem while you are traveling
- Remember all prescribed medication as well as any over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers, hemorrhoid ointment, a first aid kit and your prenatal vitamins
- Double check that you are up to date with your vaccines.
The Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis when Traveling
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which a blood clot forms in the veins in the legs or other areas of the body. DVT can lead to a dangerous condition in which the clot travels to the lungs. Pregnancy, in addition to sitting or not moving for long periods of time, can increase the risk of DVT.
If your travel plans entail long periods of sitting or inactivity, you can take the following steps to reduce the risk of DVT:
- Drink lots of fluids
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
- Walk and stretch at regular intervals
Only about one half of people who have DVT show any signs or have symptoms. Signs and symptoms of DVT in the ankle, calf or thigh include:
- Warmth or tenderness
- Pain or sudden swelling
- Redness of the skin
- Constant pain in one leg while standing or walking
If you exhibit any of the symptoms of DVT while traveling, contact a medical provider as soon as possible.
Tips for Traveling during Pregnancy
Whether traveling by car, plan or ship, there are certain precautions you can take to keep you and your baby safe and comfortable:
- If driving, make frequent stops so that you can move around, take short walks and stretch your legs.
- If flying, book an aisle seat so that you can easily get up and stretch your legs, at least every 2 hours. You can also avoid gas-producing foods and carbonated drinks before your flight as the gas expands in the low air pressure in airplane cabins and can cause discomfort.
- If traveling by ship, check to make sure that your cruise line has a health care provider on board and that your port-of-calls are places with modern medical facilities. And before you leave, ask your ob-gyn which medications are approved for you to take if you get seasickness. Also of concern for cruise ship passengers is norovirus infection. Noroviruses are a group of viruses that can cause severe nausea and vomiting for 1–2 days. The best thing you can do is wash your hands frequently on board the ship and if you do experience diarrhea and vomiting, seek medical attention immediately.
- If traveling outside of the United States, there is the additional risk of consuming contaminated food and water (typically from local water). Travelers can develop a short-term illness, called “traveler’s diarrhea,” which is a minor, but uncomfortable problem for someone who is not pregnant. However for pregnant women, more serious illnesses, such as hepatitis A and listeriosis, also can be spread by contaminated food and water, which can lead to severe complications for mom and baby.Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at (800) 311-3435 or visit their website at www.cdc.gov to receive safety information along with immunization facts related to your travels.
When to Seek Medical Care when Traveling
Even the most prepared travelers and healthiest pregnant women can run into complications while traveling. If any of the following scenarios occur while you’re away from home, you’ll need to go to the nearest hospital or call emergency medical services right away:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic or abdominal pain or contractions
- Rupture of the membranes (your water breaks)
- Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia (headache that will not go away, seeing spots or other changes in eyesight, swelling of the face or hands)
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea
- Signs of DVT
If you have any questions about prenatal care, feel free to contact us for more information or schedule a new patient consultation to discuss your particular situation. You can also download the guide, “Prenatal Care Visits – From Pre-Conception to Labor & Deliver.
About the Practice
Dr. John Garofalo, M.D., is an ob-gyn located in Fairfield County, Connecticut. He has more than 20 years of practice and surgical experience covering many facets of obstetrics and gynecology.
Laury Berkwitt, APRN, is a nurse practitioner specializing in women’s health in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Laury has a passion for providing quality women’s health care in a safe and comfortable manner by creating a trusting patient-practitioner relationship. She has been in practice for more than 10 years, caring for women of all ages.
For more information, go to www.garofaloobgyn.com. John Garofalo, MD, and Laury Berkwitt, APRN, can be reached for personal consultations by calling 203.803.1098.