Mary Calvagna, MS
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the safest time for you to travel during pregnancy is during the middle of your pregnancy (weeks 14–28). This is when you usually feel best and are in least danger of experiencing a spontaneous abortion or premature labor.
Problems that may arise during travel include:
Regardless of the stage of your pregnancy, consult with your healthcare provider before making any travel decisions. Important considerations include the potential problems associated with international travel, such as the quality of medical care available at the destination and during transit.
Once you have decided to travel, a number of issues need to be considered prior to departure. For instance, travel with at least one companion. Also, you should know that your level of comfort might be adversely affected by traveling. The following are some guidelines with regard to medical considerations when traveling during your pregnancy.
Motor vehicle accidents are a major cause of morbidity and mortality for pregnant women. Fasten safety belts at the pelvic area, below your belly. Lap and shoulder restraints are best. In most accidents, the fetus recovers quickly from the safety belt pressure. However, even after seemingly blunt, mild trauma, consult your doctor. Try to limit being in the car to no more than 5-6 hours a day. Stop frequently and get out of the car to walk—this will prevent the formation of blood clots in your legs.
Commercial air travel poses no special risks to a healthy pregnant woman or her fetus. Some conditions related to pregnancy do raise flying concerns, though. These include:
If you have any of these conditions, check with your doctor before flying. In some cases, supplemental oxygen can be ordered in advance.
Each airline has policies regarding pregnancy and flying. When booking your flight, check with the airline. Some airlines require that you complete certain medical forms before traveling. Domestic travel is usually allowed until your 36th week of gestation, and international travel may be permitted until the 32-35th week. Check with the airline for specific cut-off times for when you can travel. You should always carry documentation stating your expected date of delivery.
An aisle seat at the bulkhead will provide the most space and comfort, but a seat over the wing in the midplane region will give the smoothest ride. Other important guidelines during air travel include:
Signs and symptoms that indicate the need for immediate medical attention are:
During pregnancy, you may want to add the following items to your usual travel health kit:
In your third trimester, you may be advised to carry a blood pressure cuff and urine dipsticks so you can check for protein and glucose in your urine (proteinuria and glucosuria), both of which would require medical attention. Anti-malarial and anti-diarrheal self-treatment medications should be evaluated individually, depending on your trimester, your travel plans, and your health history. Most medications should be avoided, if possible.
American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists
Women's Health—Office on Women's Health
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
ACOG Committee Opinion. Air travel during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Publications/Committee_Opinions/Committee_on_Obstetric_Practice/Air_Travel_During_Pregnancy. Published December 2009. Accessed March 7, 2014.
Frequently asked questions: Travel during pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq055.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120702T1621385290. Updated August 2011. Accessed March 7, 2014.
Sutton, M. Pregnant Travelers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2012/chapter-8-advising-travelers-with-specific-needs/pregnant-travelers.htm. Updated August 1, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2014.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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