Generally speaking, the safest time for a pregnant woman to travel is during the second trimester, provided you are not experiencing any complications. Some countries have reciprocal health care arrangements – check with Medicare. Travelling to developing nations is never a good idea during pregnancy for various reasons, including the risk of disease such as malaria and the comparatively low standard of medical facilities.
Travellers to most developing nations need to be vaccinated against diseases such as typhoid, but most vaccines are either dangerous to unborn babies or haven’t been adequately tested for safety on pregnant women. Generally, all live virus vaccines (such as mumps and measles) should be avoided during pregnancy. Some vaccines, such as yellow fever, may cautiously be given after the first trimester.
Before the flight
If you are travelling by plane, suggestions include:
- Air travel in the last six weeks of pregnancy could trigger premature labour.
- Some airlines won’t allow a woman over 35 weeks gestation to fly.
- Some airlines require that pregnant women over 35 weeks gestation have a doctor’s note of approval for flying.
- Some travel insurance policies may not cover pregnancy. Check the fine print.
- Arrange with the airline for a bulkhead seat or a seat near an exit for extra legroom.
- Booking an aisle seat makes getting up to go to the toilet a little easier.
Air travel concerns
- Wear your seat belt under your belly and across your lap
- The lower cabin pressure inside a plane can theoretically increase the risk of blood clots. Stretch and move your legs regularly while seated. Consider wearing support stockings for the duration of the flight.
- Drink plenty of water to reduce the risk of dehydration and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- Walking up and down the aisles isn’t a good idea, as unexpected turbulence could knock you off your feet. Only get out of your seat when necessary, such as going to the toilet.
- Many pregnant women experience anaemia. If you are feeling short of breath or light-headed while in the air, ask one of the flight attendants to give you breathing oxygen.
Some holiday activities can be dangerous
Activities to avoid include:
- Water skiing – coming off the skis could force water into the vagina.
- Scuba diving – the changes in blood gases may harm your baby. However, snorkelling is fine.
- Saunas and hot tubs – raising your body temperature can harm your baby.
- High altitude activities – such as mountain climbing.
- Avoid food buffets, seafood, undercooked meats, soft cheeses and pates.
- Wash hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, before preparing food and before eating.
- In developing nations, only eat fruit that you have peeled yourself. Avoid leafy greens and salads because they could have been washed in contaminated water.
- If unsure of the water supply, drink bottled water. Use bottled water when brushing your teeth.
- Avoid ice.
- If you must use the local water, boil it thoroughly for five minutes first.
- Avoid treating unsafe water with iodine, as iodine can cause your unborn baby to develop goitre (enlarged thyroid gland), if consumed over a few weeks.