Travelling in pregnancy
Wherever you go, find out what healthcare facilities are at your destination in case you require urgent medical attention. It’s a good idea to take your maternity medical records (sometimes called handheld notes) with you so you can give doctors the relevant information if necessary.
Find out more about getting healthcare abroad.
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for any eventuality, such as pregnancy-related medical care during labour, premature birth and the cost of changing the date of your return trip if you go into labour.
When to travel in pregnancy
Some women prefer not to travel in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy because of nausea and feeling very tired during these early stages. The risk of miscarriage is also higher in the first three months, whether you’re travelling or not.
Travelling in the final months of pregnancy can be tiring and uncomfortable. So, many women find the best time to travel or take a holiday is in mid-pregnancy, between four and six months.
“Travel during pregnancy is a concern for many women,” says Sarah Reynolds, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Bedford Hospital NHS Trust. “But if your pregnancy has no complications then there’s no reason why you can’t travel safely, as long as you take the right precautions.”
Here are some general tips to ensure you and your baby stay healthy during your travels.
Flying in pregnancy
Flying is not harmful to you or your baby, but discuss any health issues or pregnancy complications with your midwife or doctor before you fly.
The likelihood of going into labour is naturally higher after 37 weeks (around 32 weeks if you’re carrying twins), and some airlines will not let you fly towards the end of your pregnancy. Check with the airline for their policy on this.
After week 28 of pregnancy, the airline may ask for a letter from your doctor or midwife confirming your due date, and that you aren’t at risk of complications.
Long-distance travel (longer than five hours) carries a small risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). If you fly, drink plenty of water and move about regularly – every 30 minutes or so. You can buy a pair of graduated compression or support stockings from the pharmacy, which will help reduce leg swelling.
Travel vaccinations when you’re pregnant
Some vaccines that use live bacteria or viruses are not recommended during pregnancy because of concerns that the virus or bacteria in the jab could harm the baby in the womb. Inactivated vaccines are safe in pregnancy.
“If you must travel to areas requiring inoculation, you should get your jabs,” says Dr Reynolds. “The risk of catching an infectious disease far outweighs the risk from vaccination.”
For advice on specific travel vaccinations, consult your GP or midwife.
Some anti-malaria tablets aren’t safe to take in pregnancy so consult your GP for advice.
Car travel in pregnancy
Fatigue and dizziness are common during pregnancy so it’s important on car journeys to drink regularly, eat natural, energy-giving foods (such as fruit and nuts) and stop regularly for a break.
Keep the air circulating in the car and wear your seatbelt with the cross strap between your breasts and the lap strap across your pelvis under your bump, not across your bump.
Road accidents are among the most common causes of injury in pregnant women. Avoid making long trips on your own and share the driving with your companion.
Sailing in pregnancy
Ferry companies have their own restrictions and may refuse to carry heavily pregnant women (often beyond 32 weeks). Check the ferry company’s policy before you book.
For longer boat trips, such as cruises, find out if there are onboard facilities to deal with pregnancy and if there are medical services at the docking ports.
Food and drink abroad in pregnancy
Take care to avoid food- and water-borne conditions, such as stomach upsets and travellers’ diarrhoea (TD). Some medicines for treating stomach upsets and traveller’s diarrhoea aren’t suitable during pregnancy.
Always check if tap water is safe. If in doubt, drink bottled water. If you get ill, keep hydrated and continue eating for the health of your baby, even if you may not be hungry.