As a general rule, pregnancy is not considered a great time for travelling. However, to put your life on hold for nine months is impossible and it is likely you will want to take holidays and have weekends away within this time. However, it is generally recommended that pregnant women do not travel to tropical areas within developing countries and to try and limit any travel within the last six weeks of their pregnancy.
Travel insurance is a sound idea if travelling outside South Africa. The cost of medical care in some countries is prohibitive and in the case of premature labour and delivery, unexpected hospitalisation fees can extend to thousands of Rands.
Is there a better time to travel during pregnancy?
The best time to travel is usually within the second trimester of pregnancy.Early nausea has usually settled by then and most women are still reasonably comfortable with regards to their size. The baby isn’t so close to being due that enjoying a holiday is out of the question and your belly will still be reasonably contained.
Where possible, plan your travel arrangements to allow for frequent breaks. Being able to get up and move around, access a toilet easily and do some stretching will make the extra time getting to your destination worthwhile. Sitting still for hours on end and having restricted movements will not only be uncomfortable but is ill-advised. Generally, 5-6 hours is sufficient time for a pregnant woman to be sitting in one position, before she needs to get up and move around.
Wear comfortable, easy clothing, which has some give in it when you travel. It’s common for feet and ankles to swell a little if they aren’t being used.
Some people (mistakenly) believe that the low pressure within air cabins can initiate labour. When combined with the comparatively low oxygen levels within the aircraft, this makes travelling by plane something to be avoided where possible. On both counts this is wrong. The baby is protected by its mother’s thick, muscular uterine wall as well as the buffering properties of the amniotic fluid. Your own body will adjust to the pressure and atmospheric changes in the environment so your baby will not be compromised.
Making comfortable seating arrangements takes on a different priority when you are pregnant. It may even be worthwhile considering an upgrade from your usual seat location, making this money well spent. Don’t be afraid of asking for a free upgrade at the check-in desk if you can. Citing your pregnancy as a reason may just be enough to ensure a more comfortable flight!
Many airlines place restrictions on pregnant women flying if they have complications or are carrying a multiple pregnancy. In such cases, medical clearance from your doctor may be necessary.
What about blood clots?
Where you can, book an aisle seat so that it will be easier for you to get up and walk around. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is more common during pregnancy and one of the most effective ways of preventing it is walking. Stretching, wriggling your toes, drinking plenty of fluids and wearing non-restrictive clothing will also help.
Some women with varicose veins are advised to wear support hose. These help to improve circulation of the blood back up the legs. They also prevent swelling and pooling of blood in the lower limbs. Check with your midwife or doctor if you would benefit from wearing them.
Travelling by boat
Some pregnant women find they experience motion sickness for the first time when they travel by boat. Medication is generally not recommended but one option which has been proven to work is acupressure bands. These place pressure on the acupuncture points on the wrist. Try getting plenty of fresh air up on the deck and focusing on the horizon. Watch what you eat if a buffet style meal is on offer. Cold processed meats and pre-prepared salads can be risky in terms of harbouring Listeria. Preferably, eat only hot food and if in doubt, don’t risk eating something you’re not sure about. So leave that extra bathing suit and take some crackers with!
Be careful about your drinking water and only drink from sealed bottles. Ice cubes, water for tooth brushing and residual water on salad leaves and fruits have all been responsible for countless upset tummies.
Travelling by car
Pregnant women can be unsure about using a seatbelt when travelling by car. They worry that the pressure of the lap band particularly, can cause undue force on the baby or placenta. Seat belts save lives, of pregnant women and anyone else who is wearing one. The consistent, evidence-based advice from experts is to always buckle up.
Watch what you eat in terms of take-away food and try to take your own meals and snacks with you. If you have to buy food on the way, try to eat at a busy fast food restaurant which is more likely to have strict food handling regulations and a fast turnover of food items.
Air bags are protective in the event of an accident. There is no increased risk to pregnant women or her baby if an air bag is activated.
Travelling by public transport
Try to time and plan your trip to optimise your chances of getting a seat. In the early months of your pregnancy, before you start showing, you are unlikely to prompt any empathy from other commuters who would otherwise give you their seat. But you may feel just as in need of one then, as you will when you progress closer to term.
If you do need to stand for the entire length of your trip, try moving your legs a little and aim not to stand in the same spot for too long. If you need some extra exercise, get off a stop or two earlier than you usually do. This incidental walking is an ideal way of increasing your aerobic exercise and will also help keep your weight under control
It is important to check your immunisation status before travelling to another country. Generally, vaccines containing live viruses are not recommended during pregnancy, but those with no live constituents tend to be safe. Check with a specialist travel doctor or your healthcare professional to assess your risk of communicable or infectious diseases when travelling.