Tips For Traveling While Pregnant

Published on 02/28/21

Most pregnancies last about 10 months on average, and it’s not completely unusual to travel in that time. To think you may not go anywhere in almost a year is a little… unrealistic. Although with COVID, things have changed a little. Especially for some of us, especially during the holidays. Nonetheless, one of the best ways for traveling while pregnant is to plan in advance. 

Is Traveling While Pregnant Safe?

Probably the number one question for a lot of first time moms. For the majority of women, that answer is yes. If you have a pregnancy that is considered low-risk, there may not be a lot of concern when it comes to travel. But traveling can bring on additional stress that leaves being away from your regular doctor more of a risk for women that are already dealing with a high-risk pregnancy. 

If you are one of those women with a high-risk pregnancy, the answer may not be so straightforward. For women who suffer through bleeding, preterm labor, illness, or other complications, you may need to reconsider staying home. Being away from your doctor with risky conditions may leave too much up to chance in case you need medical attention. Or even more so, an early delivery. However, you can be high-risk for factors as simple as advanced maternal age. For these pregnancies, traveling may not be an issue at all.

During the Pregnancy, When Is The Safest To Travel?

For most women who are considered low-risk pregnancy, they generally can travel until early into the third trimester. Mid-pregnancy tends to be the most comfortable to get up and move around. By this time the first trimester morning sickness eases up and during the third trimester, complications and/or preterm labor are at an increased risk while away.

A rule of thumb for traveling after your 34th week, is to ensure the travel destination is one you wouldn’t mind staying at just in case you need medical attention or your baby comes early. 

Although, it isn’t recommended to be traveling at all in the mid to late part of your third trimester, sometimes things happen. Make sure you understand what flying while pregnant may look like and make sure to have a doctor’s note clearing you to fly. Most airlines will request this kind of documentation. Without one, some airlines won’t let you board a plan within a certain time frame based on your due date. Again, if the pregnancy is considered low-risk. Most women can travel well into their early third trimester without any issues.

Traveling and Coronavirus

It’s hard to discuss traveling without having to address the elephant in the room. The pandemic. Travel is not a word we use anymore! 

Coronavirus and traveling don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. Tac on a pregnancy and it almost seems like this shouldn’t be a conversation at all! However, sometimes travel is essential. It’s best to talk to your OB/GYN or healthcare provider before making travel plans. You can talk about whether traveling while pregnancy could be avoided. If it can’t, you can come together to make a plan to minimize risk. 

For additional information on COVID-19, you can visit the CDC’s travel website. You can also update yourself on COVID and the effect it has on pregnancy.

Optimal Times For Traveling While Pregnant. 

The best time to travel is within 14-28 weeks of pregnancy. These weeks are normally during the second trimester where morning sickness has subsided or has gone completely, you have more energy to move around and getting around is all around easier. 

Anytime after 28 weeks, it might be a little harder to move around or sit for longer periods of time.

If you’re considering travel, talk to your OB/GYN about your plans and if they consider it safe for you to travel. Traveling is to be avoided for women who deal with certain complications such as:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Pre-labor rupture of membranes (PROM)
  • Preterm labor

It is important to consider having a prenatal check up before you leave for any trip. This way your doctor can confirm your due date and whether your vaccines are up to date. 

Preparing for an Emergency

It’s always good to prepare for an emergency. In any setting. But especially traveling while pregnant. Make sure to locate the nearest hospital around your travel location. Also, to check that the medical clinic or hospital accepts your insurance.

You can find local doctors in a specific area with The American Medical Association (AMA). They offer a DoctorFinder tool on their website.

When traveling outside the United States, check the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) for a worldwide directory of doctors who help provide healthcare for travelers. In order to view the directory of doctors, you must have a membership. But! Memberships are free! So make sure to sign up and have a plan!

After you arrive at your destination, you also can register with an American embassy or consulate. This may help if you need to leave the country because of an emergency.

Symptoms to watch for when traveling while pregnant.

Unfortunately, even if your doctor clears you to travel, there’s still reason to be on the look-out for symptoms that could signal a health problem. If you notice any of the following, make sure to get medical attention or go to a hospital right away:

  • Rupture of the membranes (your “water breaks”)
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia (headache that will not go away, seeing spots or other changes in eyesight, swelling of the face or hands)
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain or contractions
  • Signs of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis and How Do I Prevent Blood Clots?

DVT is a condition where a blood clot forms in the veins, usually in the leg. This can lead to a dangerous condition called a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism happens when a blood clot travels to the lungs. Being pregnant leaves conditions like DVT an extra risk factor. Especially because any type of traveling that lasts more than 4 hours by train, plane, or car, can leave you at double the risk for DVT.

If you are planning a long trip, take the following steps to reduce your risk of DVT:

  • Drink lots of fluids without caffeine.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Walk and stretch at regular intervals.
  • Special stockings that compress the legs, either below the knee or full length, also can be worn to help prevent blood clots from forming. Talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional before you try these stockings. Some people should not wear them (for example, those with diabetes mellitus and other circulation problems). Also, compression stockings can increase the risk of DVT if they are too tight or worn incorrectly.

Better and worse ways to travel?

There are a few ways to travel that could be better… or worse while pregnant. For instance, a cruise may sound relaxing but after the 24th week, it’ll be difficult to find medical attention out in the middle of the ocean. Car rides may be long but you can get up and stretch as needed. A plane is quicker but you’ll be strapped to a seat belt the majority of the trip. A train is slower than a plane but gives you the opportunity to move around as you please. The point is, consider your needs and your pregnancy and determine which method of travel fits you. 

Traveling Tips

  • Move your legs frequently. No matter the method of travel, avoid blood clots by getting up and moving about when it’s safe to do so. On a car ride, take short walks to keep blood flowing. With bumpy rides or turbulent planes, be extra safe. These situations cause instability in your balance. 
  • Bring healthy snacks and drinks on any and all trips. Keep water on or around you at all times to stay hydrated. Just in case of travel delays, whether it’s a traffic jam or a delayed flight. Keeping water and nourishment close is essential. 
  • If you have any medications, pack them in your carry-on bag. Make sure to talk to your doctor about what medications are necessary on your trip. Or any alternatives you might need depending on your method of travel.
  • Avoid areas that come with high risk. Especially for your baby. Especially in areas known for having Zika. Zika virus is known for causing severe brain defects in fetuses and in babies born to mothers who were infected. 
  • When it comes to international travel. Make sure food and water are safe! Plan for cooked meals, drink bottled water and avoid anything that may have been rinsed off in tap water. 
  • Make sure to listen to what your body needs. Don’t try to fit every and any activity into your schedule. Slow down when you need to, take naps when you need to, schedule meetings in the same locations, and avoid moving to too many locations. Pregnancy life is already demanding, avoid the extra stress and risk by listening to what you need. 

Traveling while pregnant doesn’t have to be hard. Assuming your doctor is okay with travel, whether for pleasure or work, the key is to plan, coordinate, and take precautions to ensure a safe and healthy trip. Not just for you, but also the baby!

If You Have Any Questions About Traveling While Pregnant, Call Rosh MFM in NYC

From questions about nutrition and weight gain, to concerns about whether your medications are safe or an unexpected cramp signals a problem, expecting moms have a lot of questions.

The team at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine are prepared to give you answers and provide top-notch medical care so that you have a healthy pregnancy. If you’d like to schedule prenatal care or have questions about traveling while pregnant, call their office in the Midtown East area of New York City, or schedule an appointment online.