Pregnancy can be an invigorating time but, this special time does come with additional risks for expectant moms wanting to travel.
Now that you’re expecting, it doesn’t mean that you have to halt all your travel plans and stay at home. There are, however, certain precautions you should take for both your own safety, and the safety of your unborn child.
Research your destination
Research your destination and any known health risks linked to that region, particularly those affecting pregnant women. “Many tropical and sub-tropical destinations, for example, are high risk areas for malaria infection. This not only places the pregnancy and the mother’s life at significant risk, but could also lead to birth defects,” warns Dr Pete Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and the Medicross Tokai Family Medical and Dental Centre.
Due to serious risks involved, pregnant women are advised to avoid travelling to malaria areas, as far as possible. Many African countries, including parts of north-eastern South Africa from September to April, Central and South America, and much of Asia are considered high-risk regions for malaria.
Best times to travel
Whatever your means of transport – car, plane or ship – Dr Vincent warns against travel in the first trimester and extreme caution for travel during the third trimester. “In terms of safety, and specifically in the case of low-risk pregnancies, the second trimester is a better time for pregnant women to travel.”
In a normal, healthy pregnancy, the period from 18 to 24 weeks is considered the safest time for air travel. However, there is generally no restriction from 23 to 36 weeks but, you will need to obtain an ultrasound scan and a letter from your doctor confirming that your pregnancy is normal and when your due date is. Most airlines will require a doctor’s letter before you can board an aeroplane. Also remember that some airlines have specific policies pertaining to pregnant passengers. Check these out with your chosen airline ahead of time. If you are carrying twins, the cut-off date for flying is 32 weeks.
Tips for safe travel
- Stretch your legs frequently during longer flights. Walk around to ensure healthy circulation at least every two hours.
- Keep your seatbelt buckled during the entire duration of the flight to keep yourself and your unborn baby safe.
- For car seatbelts, the diagonal strap should rest between your breasts and the lower section of the belt should be across your upper thighs.
- Travelling by ship or cruise liner is generally considered safe up until the 28th week for moms with normal, healthy pregnancies. Remember that motion sickness and morning sickness are often exacerbated during travel by sea. Powdered ginger can soothe these symptoms. Take it with hot water as a tea or add it to your food.
- Avoid after-sun products as these often contain chemicals that could cause problems for your unborn baby.
Activities to avoid during your holiday
Many fun and relaxing activities are considered safe for pregnant women, including walking, swimming and snorkelling. “However, any activity that is strenuous or could result in abdominal injury should be avoided,” says Dr Vincent. This includes horse riding, mountain biking, motorcycling, snowboarding and skiing. There are also risks associated with high altitude, waterskiing and strenuous hiking.
No matter which stage of pregnancy you’re in, it’s best to check your travel plans with your doctor first. Always keep your antenatal records, doctor’s contact details and documents detailing any medical conditions in a safe place during your travels. This information can prove critical, especially when you’re travelling in a foreign country.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.