Travelling During Pregnancy

Posted on February 08, 2016
Filed under Travel travel, pregnancy

Heading off on a babymoon?  Travelling for work?  Travel and pregnancy can combine well with a little extra planning and care.  Here are some ways to help you and your baby stay comfortable.

Domestic Travel

Car trips
Plan to take regular rest stops when you can get out of the car and stretch your legs and back.
Whether you’re driving or a passenger, move your seat as far back as safely possible, for comfort.
Keep the seatbelt below your belly in case of an accident.  Ensure the airbags are on, and if the worst happens and you are in a crash, have a medical checkup even if you feel fine.

Worldcare Australia - driving-when-pregnant

Bus or coach
This may be an uncomfortable option, as although the seats are cushioned and there are often seatbelts, legroom is limited and the bathrooms are small and awkward.  If you do have to take a long bus trip, try for an aisle seat, take water and healthy snacks, and book regular breaks if possible.

Shorthaul flights
Most domestic airlines will allow you to travel on flights of 4 hours duration or less up to 38 weeks, provided you do not have a multiple pregnancy, you have not experienced complications and do not have an adverse medical history.  Cutoff dates may vary with individual airlines so check beforehand.  Also check with your GP about the specific risks for you.  Some airlines may require you to carry a Certificate of Fitness to Fly from your GP if you are 28 weeks pregnant or more.  This is a letter signed by your GP that confirms your due date, whether it is a single or multiple pregnancy, any complications and your fitness to fly.  Check with your airline, and consider getting one in any case to avoid any issues when boarding.

Travelling in the second trimester, after the worst of morning sickness has passed and before the final stages of pregnancy, is often most comfortable, however sometimes travelling outside these times is unavoidable.  If that’s the case for you, then here are some suggestions for your comfort:

Worldcare Australia - travelling-during-pregnancy

  • Stay hydrated; bring your own bottled water
  • Ask for an aisle seat to avoid clambering over people when you need to go to the bathroom, plus you’ll have more leg room
  • Bring plain snacks to help with nausea if needed; spearmint or ginger can help too
  • Let the cabin crew know that you’re pregnant and ask for their help
  • Ensure your baggage is not too heavy and that you minimize the amount of lifting you do.

Travelling Overseas

Long haul flights
The tips for short haul travel apply here too, plus there are some others that will make your journey more comfortable.

  • As the risk of swollen ankles and DVT increases with time spent in the air, follow the advice of the airlines to avoid these conditions.  Move your legs and ankles regularly according to the instructions in your in-flight information, and consider wearing pressure bandages on your legs
  • Take bottled water everywhere you go, not just on your flight
  • Research medical facilities and the standard of care at your destination, which may not be as high as that of Australia.  Put the name and number of a reliable doctor at your destination that your GP recommends into your contacts list in case of emergency
  • Travel with a copy of your prenatal care reports and ultrasound scans if you have them.

Provided the pregnancy has no complications, most airlines will accept you for travel up to 36 weeks.  If you are 28 weeks pregnant or more, you may need a Certificate of Fitness to fly (see Short haul flights above).  If you have complications you will need a medical clearance.

Worldcare Australia - flying-when-pregnant

Apart from nausea being exacerbated by seasickness, this can be a more comfortable way to travel while pregnant.  There are more places to rest, and the pace is slower and more relaxed.  Just try to avoid the buffet and pre-prepared foods such as deli meats, pate or soft cheeses, as they may be contaminated with Listeria bacilli, which can cause Listeriosis.  While rare, this can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth.  It’s best to stick to a la carte meals, freshly prepared meats and salads, hard cheese, pasteurized milk and other ‘safer’ food.  A full list of foods to avoid can be found on the Food Standards website but also check with your GP for specific foods (or activities) you should avoid.
Also avoid the pools or public spas in case of the risk of infection, and ensure the water temperature is not too hot.

Trains can also be quite comfortable, if you ensure a seat with enough legroom and a bottom bunk if you have a sleeper.

Vaccinations and illnesses
The Travel Doctor recommends avoiding vaccinations during the first trimester due to the risk of miscarriage, and avoiding live vaccines such as those for Yellow Fever altogether.  If possible, either don’t travel to places where these diseases exist, or have your vaccinations before you fall pregnant.  The World Health Organisation has a list of recommended vaccinations for each country, or check with your GP.

Known malaria hotspots should be avoided if possible, as there is no vaccination and many medical centres will not treat you if pregnant due to the risks to the foetus.  Malaria can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight, or maternal and/or neonatal death.  If travelling in these areas is unavoidable, take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes – cover up and use a suitable insect repellent.

Currently there is no vaccination for the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that has been implicated in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations (small head syndrome and other complications).  Take the same precautions as for malaria if travelling to affected areas is unavoidable.

Toxoplasmosis is a risk in places where you may come in contact with cat faeces, raw or undercooked meat, or unwashed fruit or vegetables.  It can cause brain damage, blindness or hearing loss in the fetus.  So ‘if you can’t boil it, cook it, or peel it then forget it’ - and it’s best to avoid cats and handwash regularly

Emergency Help

Traveling to very remote areas may be risky, as help may not reach you in time if anything goes wrong with the pregnancy. 

Wherever you’re planning to go, medical costs will likely be higher than at home and the standard of care may not be as good as that in Australia.  That’s where travel insurance can cover you for instances such as emergency medical care, medivacs, and medications if needed.

This content was compiled by AGA Assistance Australia Pty Ltd ABN 52 097 227 177 trading as Worldcare and Allianz Global Assistance (AGA). While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all information, AGA does not accept liability for any errors or omissions.

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