Pregnancy Travel Tips
How to stay safe and comfortable while traveling.
You may have tweaked your diet or fine-tuned your exercise habits when you found out you were pregnant. For the most part, healthy pregnant women can carry on with their usual routine. Depending on the stage of their pregnancy and their destination, they can also probably travel, too.
You may find that travel around the middle of pregnancy — between 14 and 28 weeks — is the most comfortable. Hopefully the unpleasant morning sickness phase has ended and you are more energetic. In the third trimester, you may fatigue more easily and may find it harder to either sit for long periods of time or move around much.
Regardless of where you are in your pregnancy, before gassing up your car or booking your ticket, talk with your doctor about any trips that will take you far from home. No matter how you’re feeling, and even if you have no other health risks, it is best to hear what your doctor has to say — before bidding “bon voyage!”
Your doctor can help you think about your trip and destination: Do you need any immunizations? Is the food and water safe? Is there good medical care in case of an emergency? Once you have your questions answered, here are a few more tips to help make travel safe and comfortable while you’re pregnant.
Land travel (car, bus, train)
Safety first. Buckle your seatbelt across your hips and low on your waist. And use the shoulder strap. It should be between your breasts, across your chest and to the side of your belly. Keep the air bag turned on when you’re riding in a car. Avoid sitting for long periods of time. It can affect the blood flow in your legs, so plan to make frequent stops to stretch them — every two hours. Try to limit driving to five to six hours each day.
If you’re riding on a bus or train, walk safely up the aisle by supporting yourself on seats — or use rails.
Most commercial airlines allow women to travel up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Occasional air travel is safe for most women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that you take these precautions to stay comfortable and safe during air travel:
- Keep your seat belt buckled low on your hips and below your belly.
- Try to book an aisle seat so it’s easier to get up and stretch during a long flight.
- Avoid carbonated drinks and gas-producing foods pre-flight.
- If you’re prone to nausea, speak with your doctor about prescribing an anti-nausea medication.
Other experts also suggest:
- Consider wearing support pantyhose to keep the blood flowing in your legs.
- Prevent dehydration by drinking enough fluids during the flight.
Travel by sea
Talk with your health care provider about which medications are safe for you to take along in case of seasickness. If taking a cruise, find out if there is medical care on board. Another concern on cruise ships is norovirus infection. These viruses are highly contagious and can cause severe nausea and vomiting. You can become infected from contaminated foods, drinks or surfaces.
In addition, listen to your doctor if he or she says it’s too late in your pregnancy for a cruise. If you are in your third trimester, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that you do not step onboard. You may not have access to medical care needed for premature labor or hypertension, among other problems.
Talk with your health care provider about leaving the country and what steps you should take before you go, such as which immunizations you may need. Avoid countries where there is a risk of malaria while you are pregnant. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for travel alerts. And check with your insurance provider about where you can get medical attention abroad in case you need help. Bring a copy of your medical and obstetrical records in case of an emergency.
If something doesn’t feel right with your pregnancy, don’t wait to get help. Seek care right away. Here are some more safety tips to follow while traveling abroad:
- Avoid unboiled tap water. And if you drink bottled water, know where it came from.
- Adhere strictly to water and food precautions in developing countries.
- Use canned juices or soft drinks as food alternatives.
- Make sure milk is pasteurized.
- Stay away from fresh fruits and veggies unless they have been cooked or can be peeled (such as an orange or a banana).
- Make sure that all meat and fish have been cooked completely.
Whether you’re traveling domestically or abroad, by land, sea or air, a little preparation may help you travel safely and comfortably while you’re pregnant.
By Jennifer Mitchell, Contributing Editor
For more information, please visit Optum's Health Library
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnant travelers. Accessed: July 1, 2016.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Travel during pregnancy. Accessed: July 1, 2016.
United States Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Staying healthy and safe. Accessed: July 1,2016.
Last Updated: July 1, 2016
The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs and to determine whether making a lifestyle change or decision based on this information is appropriate for you. Some treatments mentioned may not be covered by your health plan. Please refer to your benefit plan documents for information about coverage.