We are a mobile society. We travel for vacations. We travel for employment. We may go only a few miles or we may circle the globe. We use planes, trains, automobiles, and ships to get where we are going. It is an exciting time in our lives.
Many times I have been asked by concerned patients and families about travel during pregnancy. For the most part, travel is safe during pregnancy. Some common sense recommendations for all travelers include using your seat belt at all times, and stretching your legs every so often. Seat belt use is the most single way to prevent death and reduce injury. Wear your seat belt every time and wear it properly. Wear it in the car, on the plane, and on a train. Sitting still for longer than 2 hours whether it is in a car or on a plane, puts anyone at higher risk for blood clots in the legs. Pregnant women have an even higher risk for blood clots with prolonged sitting. If you can, get up and take a walk to keep those muscles moving. Some airline carriers have instructions for doing leg exercises in your seat.
Occasional air travel is safe in pregnancy. Most airlines restrict air travel at 35 to 36 weeks depending on where you are flying. You should check with your airline carrier. Noise, vibration, and cosmic radiation exposure during trip for an occasional traveler is safe.
If you are planning on travel, let your doctor know. Most obstetrical emergencies occur in the first and third trimester. Certainly, travel may not be recommended for some women who have complications during pregnancy. If you have a pre-existing medical condition and are pregnant, discuss possible risks with your doctor. Lastly, if you are part of the air crew for a civilian or a military organization, you should check with your agency for guidelines and restrictions during pregnancy.
Taking a cruise? Good for you! If seasickness is a concern, your doctor can provide you with safe medications to take. Most cruises have a medical department. Just remember, they have very limited medical resources. If you have a medical problem that exceeds their ability, you will be shipped off ASAP.
What about when you get there? Is your destination a foreign country? Will you be in the Colorado Mountains, the Andes, or going to the Himalayas? Want do you plan to do while there? Do you plan to fly high in a hot air balloon? Are you going on an African safari or cruising the Amazon River? Planning on taking a dip in the hot tub or a geothermal pool in Iceland? Will you explore the area on a motorcycle or scooter? You may want to discuss with your doctor any activities you are planning. Some activities such as hot tubs and scuba diving are NOT recommended during pregnancy. If you want detailed information, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has on its website a travel section that addresses issues such as activities, immunizations and disease protection.
So have fun on your trip. Be safe.
Cynthia Wilkes MD
Stafford Womens Health Associates