Protecting your pregnancy when traveling


Are you planning a trip abroad soon? Wondering how safe it will be for you and your unborn baby to travel to another country that may require mandatory vaccinations?

Dr Pete Vincent from Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Tokai in Cape Town advises how you can protect your pregnancy if you’re traveling.

ALSO SEE: Traveling while pregnant – how to do it safely 

Consult your doctor

Consult a travel doctor well in advance of your planned trip. “He or she will be able to give advice on which vaccines are safe to use and what measures to take to best protect your health and that of your unborn baby,” says Dr Vincent.


“Inactive vaccines, such as the influenza vaccine and the quadrivalent vaccine are considered safe during pregnancy. These vaccines are important for newborn babies who are entirely dependent on maternal antibodies to provide passive immunity protection against common viral infections,” explains Dr Vincent.

“There has been a rise in the number of reported cases of whooping cough, which is potentially dangerous for newborn babies, both in South Africa and globally, so it is critical to be protected against this highly infectious virus,” Dr Vincent stresses. “I would suggest that not just mothers-to-be, but anyone who is likely to come into contact with newborns, including fathers, child minders, siblings and grandparents, be vaccinated against whooping cough,” he adds.

According to the Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention [CDC] in the United States, a whooping cough vaccine can provide a baby with a 78% greater protection against whooping cough during their first two months of life than if the mother had not been vaccinated during pregnancy.

Expecting moms should be vaccinated with the inactive quadrivalent vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. This vaccine provides protection against whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria and polio. It also provides your baby with maximum passive immunity from you.

Malaria areas

It’s best to avoid traveling to malaria areas as pregnancy greatly increases the risk of developing potential complications should you contract malaria. “There is no safe anti-malaria prophylaxis available for pregnant women and areas where malaria is prevalent should be strictly avoided,” says Dr Vincent.

ALSO SEE: Everything you need to know about malaria 

Be cautious about what you eat and drink

Listeriosis is a food borne bacterial infection that can have serious implications for maternal health. “It can be fatal for both unborn and newborn babies,” warns Dr Vincent. This bacterial disease can be contracted by consuming contaminated processed deli meats or unpasteurised milk products. He advises expecting moms to be cautious about what they eat while travelling, especially as one is more inclined to consume foods on the go.

“A healthy individual does not usually become seriously ill from a listeria infection, and even pregnant women are likely to only experience mild signs and symptoms. It can, however, result in pregnancy loss and could cause meningitis in a newborn infant,” Dr Vincent says.

So, if you suspect you may have contracted the infection, consult a doctor immediately. Prompt treatment with antibiotics can assist in preventing the infection from causing harm to the foetus.

More about the expert:

Dr Pete Vincent studied medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he learnt Anatomy from the internationally-renowned scientist, Professor Phillip Tobias. Dr Vincent entered general medical practice in Tokai some 30 years ago. Since 1995 he has been practicing at Medicross Tokai, where he was one of the first healthcare partners. He has a special interest in occupational and travel medicine, and is a past president of the South African Society of Travel Medicine (SASTM). He was also the medical editor of Modern Medicine for many years up until 2017. 

scroll to top
Send this to a friend