Travelling has now become an integral part of our lives – whether it’s for work, family or a baby-moon, long and short distance air travel has become more accessible and common among pregnant women.
Although very safe, there are some pregnancy and travel-related concerns that you should be aware of. With this in mind, we’ve compiled some information to help make your travels safer and more comfortable.
Should you travel when pregnant?
As long as there are no concerns with your pregnancy, you’re generally safe to travel at all times during your pregnancy. Always check with your doctor beforehand to make sure though!
The best time to travel while pregnant will probably be in the second trimester. This is when morning sickness should settle down, and the belly is not yet big enough to cause major discomfort. Usually, changes in air cabin pressure and in-flight turbulence can increase the risk of discomfort. You can also check in advance individual airline’s travel restrictions for pregnant women if you have any concerns.
What are the risks of travelling when pregnant?
Generally, when flying on long haul flights or sitting for prolonged periods of time, there’s a risk of pregnant women developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
What is deep vein thrombosis?
DVT is when a blood clot forms in the vein. It’s more common for a clot to develop in the calves, but it can also happen in the lungs (which is rare, but fatal when it does occur). DVT can occur in the non-pregnant population, but pregnancy increases the risk of occurrence.
How to prevent DVT
By addressing the risk factors for DVT, it can be prevented. Here are some steps you can take when travelling:
- wear compression stockings on flights and when prolonged immobilisation is anticipated.
- keep well hydrated with water.
- avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
- stay mobile on planes (do stretching exercises every 30 minutes to keep blood flowing).
- choose an aisle seat if possible when travelling on flights.
Some women at high risk of DVT may also need heparin prophylaxis for their flights, which is a medication used to prevent and lower the chances of DVT from occurring.
When should you avoid pregnant travelling?
In some certain pregnancy conditions, commercial air travel and overseas holidays may be unsafe, and travelling should be avoided if possible. Here are some examples of scenarios where you should avoid travel:
- severe anaemia
- recent vaginal bleeding
- severe maternal heart or lung disease
- recent otitis media (middle ear infection) or sinusitis
- recent abdominal surgery
- recent fracture still in a cast
The above list is not exhaustive – please discuss with your doctor if you have concerns or if you’re planning to travel while pregnant.
Some other travel tips & advice
When travelling to tropical areas, pregnant women should bring and use insect repellants to avoid certain insect-borne infections (such as dengue fever or the Zika virus). There are also other safety precautions you can take, such as:
- wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing.
- avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk.
- apply insect repellent to exposed body parts and clothing only.
- wash skin when returning indoors and clothing sprayed with insect repellent.
- sleep in beds with mosquito nets if air conditioning is not available.
- when applying sunblock, do so before insect repellent.
Insect repellents that are safe to use in pregnancy and breastfeeding include:
- DEET (less than 50% concentration)
- oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol
Additionally, pregnant women should avoid travellers’ diarrhoea by only consuming food that’s thoroughly cooked and drinking pre-packaged chilled drinks (as opposed to ice drinks).
Pregnancy travel help & advice
All-in-all, travelling while pregnant is safe. As long as you take the right precautions and follow your doctor’s advice. If you are looking for more information and advice about travelling while pregnant, please feel free to contact us. At OT&P Healthcare, we have a dedicated team of obstetricians and midwives who can provide pregnancy support – or browse our maternity packages.