Travelling While Pregnant - What You Need To Know
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Congratulations to all you soon-to-be mums! It’s more important than ever to pamper yourself when you’re expecting. Taking a trip away now is the perfect way to get some well-deserved ‘me time’ before your new baby arrives. Whether you’re planning a restful trip alone, a cheeky ‘babymoon’ with your partner, or a girly city break, try to plan some time to get away from all the baby-proofing, prenatal classes and planning while you still can!
But, of course, your priority will always be yours and your baby’s health. Depending on how along you are and how healthy you are generally, making long flights or travelling long distances to unknown places could put a strain on your health. But it doesn’t have to! For peace of mind, make sure you read our guide on travelling while pregnant and travelling with small children before you go so that you’re fully prepared for that holiday away!
Always, the first questions you should be asking yourself are:
- Is it safe?
- What are the risks?
- Do I really need to travel?
- Am I healthy enough to do this?
We wouldn’t recommend travelling if you’re in the later stages of pregnancy or to areas that are at high risk of malaria, hepatitis or other infectious diseases, but if you are planning a trip while pregnant then we’ve got some handy tips and suggestions to help you and your baby stay healthy when you’re out there.
So, when is it safe for me to travel?
Most airlines will let you travel under 28 weeks of your pregnancy without a letter from your GP or midwife if you’ve had a problem-free pregnancy. After that, you’ll have to provide a letter from your medical professional for the airline stating your due date and that you’re fit to fly. In all cases, after 36 weeks (or 32 if you’re expecting twins!) you won’t be able to travel by air.
We’ve found that most women think that the best time to travel while you’re pregnant is between four and six months. The first 12 weeks of pregnancy can be tough on any new mum: you’re more likely to be sleepy and nauseous which could make travelling during this time pretty uncomfortable. The first three months are also the most high risk of any pregnancy for things going wrong, so we’d advise that you wait until after this period to travel. Still if you’ve had a problem-free pregnancy and you’re taking the right precautions, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a holiday away!
Whenever and wherever you’re going, always go to see your midwife to talk about the risks, and when the best time for you to travel would be. There are certain points during your pregnancy when travelling is safer than others.
REMEMBER: even if you’re within the week-limit for air travel, think about the risks and consequences of a premature labour. If you’re staying abroad and have your baby prematurely, you could be stuck there for months until your baby is well enough to be taken home to the UK. A good benchmark to remember is that premature babies will usually stay in hospital for about the same time as they would have been in the womb, had they not popped out early! So, if you’re delivering at 25 weeks then you could have an extra 15 weeks in that country.
Before You Go
We’ve come up with a checklist to follow before you go to help you out. Here are the top things to remember before you go on any trip while pregnant:
- Make sure you’re fully up-to-date and repatriated with some good travel health insurance and make sure the insurance company knows that you are pregnant! This might sound nit-picky, but otherwise you won’t be covered for anything that happens to you or your baby. Again, if anything were to happen or you were to have a premature birth, then you’ll need good healthcare when you’re out there and you’ll need to be covered for costs.
- Go to see your midwife and/or GP first! You’ll need to discuss your travel plans to begin with to check that they think it’s safe for you and your baby to go, but you’ll also need to get enough of all the prescriptions and medications you’re taking to last you for the trip. Make sure to bring photocopies of your prescriptions too, and spares of your medication in case you lose them.
- Always always always bring your pregnancy notes with you everywhere you go! All pregnant women should carry their hand-held record with all their scans and medical info so that you can get proper maternal or neonatal care if you need it.
- Bring a note of the numbers of your midwife, GP and the maternity unit at the hospital where your care is based so that, if you need to go to the doctors while you’re away, they can get in touch with the people who know your situation best.
- Check out where the nearest decent healthcare facilities are wherever you’re staying so that you know where to go if you ever need any help.
- We’d really advise that you think twice before heading somewhere where there’s a risk of malaria if you’re pregnant, but if you are going to a high-risk zone then make sure you go to speak to your GP or one of our friendly nurses at your local Superdrug Travel Clinic about which anti-malarial medication is safe for you to have. For all you hopefuls who are planning on getting pregnant, then you should know that there’s a period after you’ve stopped taking your anti-malarials when it’s not safe to conceive. You can ask the nurses about this too.
- Go wild, but not too wild! It’s really not the best idea to go anywhere where you know there will be poor sanitation and healthcare facilities. Avoid anywhere like this because you’ll be put at extra risk and it could be seriously dangerous for you and your baby. Make sure you’re extra vigilant about food and water hygiene (see our page on safe food and water precautions link). Some infections which are transmitted through dirty water can be much more dangerous in pregnant women than in others, such as diseases like Hepatitis E. Always seek immediate medical attention if you begin to feel even the slightest bit unwell while you’re away.
Top Tips For Pregnant Travellers
Our expert team of nurses and doctors have been come up with a few handy hints to make travelling on the plane and travelling while you’re out there a little easier for all you future mums!
1. Shout about it! Sometimes it’s hard for your air hosts and hostesses to tell whether or not you’re expecting, so make sure all the flight crew know so that they can look after you in the style you deserve.
2. Even if you can’t enjoy a tipple or two on the plane, you’ll need to keep hydrated – make sure you’re drinking water regularly at all times because you’re at a much higher risk of dehydration when you’re pregnant.
3. It’s also important to drink plenty of water because you’ll be at risk of getting a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) on flights, too. Make sure you stretch your legs as much as you can manage, and wear some special travel socks from Superdrug to prevent blood clots developing.
4. Put your feet up! Rest as much as you can while you’re making long journeys, because you’ll need to keep your energy levels up! This goes for any long trip: if you’re driving, why not let your partner take the reins while you relax with a magazine?
5. If you’re are out and about, then make sure you’ve got some comfy shoes with you. This is extra important because it’s common to get swollen ankles in the heat, and you don’t want them rubbing!
6. Steer clear of alcohol while you’re pregnant, and eat light, healthy meals to avoid bloating and nausea.
7. Have a chat with your midwife about what you’re planning to do on your trip. We’re sure you aren’t planning on any deep-sea diving or mountain climbing for this holiday, but they’ll be able to advise you whether your activities are safe for you and your baby.
8. Again, make sure you’ve got all your important documents and details with you! You’ll need a copy of your current prescription (and a spare one, too!), your pregnancy notes, and a list of contact details for your midwife, GP and the maternity clinic you use. If you’re forgetful, then why not scan these all in and email them to yourself too so that you’ll always have access while you’re somewhere with a signal?
9. Watch what you eat! We’re not talking about watching your figure, but you’ll need to be extra careful of all the food and drinks you consume because you don’t want to catch anything nasty while you’re pregnant. Take a look at our page on safe food and drink precautions (link) and, if in doubt, don’t eat it!
10. Be selfish! You’ll need to take some ‘me time’ whether this is your first, second or umpteenth pregnancy. Take at least half a day out from your agenda to have some much-deserved pampering. It won’t be just you for very much longer, so enjoy having the time to yourself while you can!
So there are our ten top tips for travelling when pregnant. But what about if you’ve already had your baby and are travelling with young toddlers or babies? For more tips, read our article about travelling with children.