Congratulations on your pregnancy! If you have already made plans to travel (either before or after finding out about your pregnancy) there are some things you will need to consider first.
Should I go ahead with my plans?
Some of us plan our vacations months or even years ahead. The last thing on your mind would be to cancel at the last minute. However, your health and your foetus’s should come first. In general, as long as there are no complications with your pregnancy, it is safe to travel.
However, you should always make it a point to consult with your doctor/gynaecologist on your travel plans. He or she will schedule regular pregnancy check-ups, whereby your health status will be monitored. Based on the findings, your doctor will advise you on whether or not you can travel.
When it is unsafe
Do not proceed with your travel plans if you face complications such as vaginal bleeding, multiple pregnancy, or have a history of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, placental abnormalities, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy (the foetus develops outside the womb).
Getting ready to travel
Whenever you travel, always make it a point to do the necessary due diligence. Here are three important items to discuss with your doctor/gynaecologist:
- get ‘certified’ – as a precautionary measure, ask your doctor for a letter certifying your fitness to travel. This letter should not be dated more than ONE month from the date of your travel.
- travel vaccines – ask about the necessary shots relevant to your vacation destination. However, live attenuated vaccines ARE NOT ADVISED during pregnancy.
- learn specific remedies – find out how you can treat common travel ailments (e.g. motion sickness, altitude sickness, acclimatising yourself to changes in climate, etc.)
Other items you will need to look at include knowing how to:
- pace yourself – if you are going on a tour, you may want to adjust the pace of the tour to suit your pregnancy.
- take safety seriously – always use protective equipments even if they are uncomfortable to wear (e.g. safety belt when travelling by car). Although safety should be your priority, you can place a soft cloth between the safety belt and your body if it makes you uncomfortable; just check to ensure that the safety belt still functions properly and is positioned appropriately.
- plan your travel – some choices of transportation may require more planning, e.g. travelling by bus or car may mean making allowances for more restroom stops. Do limit travelling time to no more than 5-6 hours. Take as many rest stops as necessary for short walks to help keep your blood circulating. You need to keep yourself well hydrated, so make sure you take adequate fluids. This will reduce your risk of developing blood clots which are dangerous.
- be prepared – travel with copies of relevant medical records related to your pregnancy as a precaution. In case of emergencies, find out the address/phone number of the nearest doctor/hospital.
- keep meds close at hand – make it a point to carry your medications or pregnancy supplements with you when you travel, just in case your luggage goes missing (a small waist-pouch, handbag, purse, carry-on bag should suffice).
- check your insurance coverage – does it cover pregnancy related problems? If not, check with your insurance provider on what options are available.
- quality of healthcare – check to ensure that the hospital/clinic at the place of your visit can handle complications, air medical transfer, and also the availability and cost as well.
- economy class syndrome – this ‘syndrome’ is not confined to just economy class. It occurs due to the formation of blood clots in the veins of the legs which typically happens during (or just after) long flights. Also called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), you can minimise your risk by:
- staying well hydrated (drink plenty of water!),
- move your legs by walking around during the flight, OR flex and extend your ankles, knees, and hips as often as possible.
This helps minimise the risk of DVT, which has potentially serious and even fatal consequences.
Did you know?
In general, the ideal time for pregnant women to travel long distance is during your second trimester as most people would have passed the morning sickness phase inherent in the first trimester. It is best to spend your third trimester close to home in case of any emergency.
An educational collaboration with Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia.