Pregnancy can be a magical experience, but that doesn’t mean creating new life comes without challenges. From what you wear to how you move your body to how well you sleep, pregnancy changes your day to day in myriad of ways – both good and bad.
However, that doesn’t mean you should stay home and avoid travel for the entire nine months you’re with child. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it’s typically safe to travel until you’re 36 weeks pregnant, so you may as well get out and see the world.
These tips can help you ensure your pre-baby travel is safe, comfortable and fun.
Travel When You’re Most Comfortable
According to the ACOG, the best time for pregnant women to travel is between 14 and 28 weeks, or during the middle of your pregnancy.
The most common pregnancy problems occur in the first and third trimesters, according to the health organization. “During midpregnancy, your energy has returned, morning sickness usually is gone, and it is still easy to get around,” according to the ACOG.
If you have the option to be flexible with your travel dates, steering clear of early and late pregnancy trips may save you from having to endure an unenjoyable experience.
Robert Quigley, senior vice president at International SOS and MedAire, says you should meet with your doctor and get cleared to travel before you depart on any trip. Also, take the time to research medical facilities near where you’ll be staying, he says, since you won’t want to have to frantically figure out where to go if you experience complications.
Early planning can include checking nearby hospitals that you contact ahead of your trip, and locating pharmacies and additional prenatal resources in your destination should you go into early labor.
“This may also include a communication plan for friends or family should they need to join you, and an evacuation plan to upgrade your care in the event of a complication,” he says.
Purchase Travel Insurance
Travel writer and mom of two Natalie Preddie, who blogs at NattyPOnline.com, says you should buy travel insurance that includes medical coverage before your trip if you’re visiting a destination where your health insurance won’t apply.
Preddie says when she was pregnant, she had to go to a hospital in Florida during a trip because she thought her baby wasn’t moving. She says she was glad her health insurance was accepted right away, but she worries what would have happened if she had to pay for a lengthy hospital stay or tests out of pocket.
Bring Your Medical Records with You
Lee Roosevelt, who works as nurse midwife at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, says you can gain peace of mind and expedite any medical care you might need by bringing a copy of your pregnancy-related medical records along on your trip.
“Offices can take a day or two to return a request for records, and if you need care quickly it means your team of providers [is] making decisions without knowing the details of your pregnancy,” she says.
Be Proactive About Your Health
Roosevelt also says that when it comes to pregnancy, you should take steps to avoid common health problems regardless of whether you’re on a trip or at home. She recommends taking plenty of walking breaks since “pregnant women are at higher risk for blood clots and prolonged sitting increases that risk.”
You should try to get up and walk for five to 10 minutes every few hours if you can, even if you’re on an airplane.
Roosevelt also noted that buying and wearing compression socks during air travel can help you avoid swelling, blood clots and more.
In the same vein of being mindful about your health and wellness, drink lots of water so you stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel unwell and put you at risk for pre-term contractions, Roosevelt says.
Plan to bring your own refillable water bottle while you travel so you can stay hydrated no matter where you are, whether that’s on the road or in the air.
Airports don’t always have many healthy dining options, and what is available tends to be expensive. To save money and avoid having to nosh on empty calories, it can help to bring your own selection of sensible snacks along.
Consider packing healthy snacks like dried fruit and vegetables if you can. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also recommends eating whole grain toast or crackers when you’re feeling nauseous or unwell, and healthy crackers should be easy to pack in your bag and bring along.
Bring Sanitizing Wipes and Gel
The ACOG says that, if you’re going on a cruise specifically, you’ll want to take steps to avoid norovirus – a group of viruses that can spread quickly and cause severe nausea and vomiting.
Washing your hands frequently is the best way to avoid it, but antibacterial hand gel can help you ward off germs as well. Meanwhile, disinfecting wipes are good to have on hand to wipe down airplane tray tables and arm rests.
The Government of Canada also recommends pregnant women vigorously wash their hands before eating or preparing food as well. Following these recommendations is especially important when you’re in a busy airport or dining on a germ-infested airplane.
If you’re planning a road trip or need to drive a long distance to reach your destination, it can be beneficial to break up your travel over several days. That way, you’ll only have to sit for shorter spurts of time rather than long stretches that can leave you vulnerable to swelling, blood clots and other pregnancy-related complications.
The ACOG also notes that you should buckle your seatbelt low on your hipbones, below your belly, and “place the shoulder belt off to the side of your belly and across the center of your chest.”
Plan to make frequent stops so that you can get out and stretch your legs, and your car ride will be more enjoyable and keep you and the baby safe.
Book an Aisle Seat When You Fly
If you plan to fly while you’re pregnant, book an aisle seat ahead of time – even if you need to pay extra for it. Having an aisle seat will make it easier for you to get up and walk around, and to head to the toilet for the many bathroom breaks you’ll likely need to take.
If you can, splurge (or use points) for business class to score some extra room.
Sightseeing is a lot of fun pregnant or not, but don’t forget that your energy levels may be lower by the time you’re ready to depart.
Make sure to plan an itinerary that includes plenty of breaks and downtime. You may even want to plan a relaxation-themed trip altogether, such as a spa getaway or a trip to an all-inclusive resort.
Be Choosy About Your Destination
Be mindful of seasonal weather trends and how they might work for your pregnant self. If you are planning a beach getaway in the middle of July and considering Naples in southern Florida, for example, it’s smart to know ahead of time that daily high temperatures usually reach 89 degrees and humidity levels often fall in the “oppressive” or “miserable” range in the summer. Doing your research could help you find a destination with better weather, such as a beach spot with lower humidity like Virginia Beach, Virginia or Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
When it comes to trip planning, Google is your friend. Make sure you know how the weather might look no matter where you are planning to travel or you could live to regret it.
There’s nothing worse than being in transit for hours without supplies for headaches, heartburn and other pregnancy-related ailments. If you’re prone to not feeling well at home or when you travel, you may want to bring a small first-aid kit along.
While your kit can include whatever you want, consider packing medicine for heartburn, bloating, gas and nausea – or whatever has been bugging you the most.
Check If You Need Clearance to Fly
While most airlines let you fly without question until you’re up to 36 weeks pregnant, some international carriers, including Cathay Pacific and Emirates, need verification of your health from your doctor with a medical certificate before you board the plane.
If you plan to fly domestically or abroad, make sure to check with the air carriers you’re considering as you organize the trip. Most airlines typically list this information on their websites, but you can also call to ask if you’ll need any specific documentation.
Finally, don’t forget to bring luggage that’s easy to move around from place to place. Spinner-style luggage on wheels is typically the easiest to transport, and you should strive to pack light (within reason) so you’re not stuck lugging around all the clothing and shoes you own.
Don’t hesitate to check your luggage either – especially if you have a layover to endure. The less you have to carry around, the smoother your trip should be.