BLOG BY DR BROOKE VANDERMOLEN

How To Stay Safe When Travelling While Pregnant

Life gets so busy when you are preparing for a new baby, and not to mention expensive! It can be very difficult to find quality time with your partner to soak up the special moments before your whole life changes, so a “babymoon” can be a perfect solution.

It is also important to be aware that pregnancy is still a risky time to travel, and as an obstetrician there are a number of factors I recommend women to consider.  

Here are my top tips for planning a trip, and travelling during pregnancy:

Before you go:

Check with your doctor or midwife if they agree you will be safe to fly to the chosen destination at that gestation.

Will you be safe to fly?

It is a really good idea to discuss your plans before booking a trip, and you will need to see your doctor or midwife again in the run up to the journey to get approval for flying.

Your doctor/ midwife will need to take into account the following information to guide you about whether it is advisable for you to travel or not.

These include:

• Any pre-existing conditions or pregnancy complications that may lead to you needing medical attention whilst abroad

• Your risk of blood clots

• Your likelihood of delivering pre-term

• Your specific destination – this is because it is important to consider what the maternity care is like where you are going, and whether you will have to travel long distances to get assistance if required.

• Any infection risks where you are going

Remember even if you are considered fit to travel at the time, this can always change so make sure you are happy you understand the risks involved and discuss again with the medical team if anything changes. It is a really good idea to ensure you are aware of where the nearest maternity unit will be where you are staying.

It is also important to check your travel insurance policy to ensure that mum (and baby if required) are covered for medical care and possible repatriation to the UK if the situation arises.

Airline rules:

• Check the rules for your airline before you book your ticket.

• If you are over 28 weeks, you will usually need a fit to fly certificate.

• Some airlines specify their own certificate, others will accept a generic one from the hospital/GP

• Most airlines have a maximum travel limit of 36 weeks (rules may be different for multiple pregnancies)

First trimester travel

It can be really difficult to avoid travelling, especially if you already had a trip planned before you found out you were pregnant. It is important to be aware that there is no evidence that travel in the first trimester affects the rate of miscarriage.

However, many women try to avoid travel during this time. You may be experiencing nausea and vomiting which can make the experience really unpleasant! There is also the possibility that you may need to seek medical attention due to miscarriage or if bleeding occurs in early pregnancy.

The risk of miscarriage substantially decreases after 12 weeks gestation. Prior to this time, miscarriage can occur at any point with or without the travel. Even having an early pregnancy scan doesn’t completely remove the possibility of miscarriage if you are still in the first trimester.

If you do decide to travel during this time, it is important you know where your nearest hospital will be. It is also a good idea to check with your insurance company that any medical treatment abroad would be covered.

Picking your destination

Apart from the obvious, like avoiding any extreme sports or altitude, there are some other things to consider when picking your destination:

• Flight length – short haul will have a lower risk of blood clots during the flight

• The level of maternity and neonatal care available in that country should you need it

• How much walking/climbing you may need to do

Then comes the fun part – where in the world do you want to go? Steps and boats can be more challenging when heavily pregnant, but it is also a great time to see a part of the world that you may prefer to avoid when you have a young family in tow!

What to pack:

Remember that your skin will be much more sensitive to the sun. You are more likely to burn or have permanent pigmentation.

• Bring a higher factor sun cream than usual and apply it regularly

• Remember that even if you are usually a sun-lover, and the sun doesn’t affect you, still take extra precautions!

• If you are travelling on a long-haul flights, take compression stockings for the journey and remember to get up for regular walks/ stretches!

• A refillable water bottle is really helpful so you can always bring sufficient water with you

• you can bring it in hand luggage as long as it’s empty as you go through security.

• Otherwise dehydration can be a big risk if you travel to a hot country

• Flat shoes – now is not the time for your sparkliest holiday wedges! Comfort is key, especially if you don’t know what the roads will be like or how far you will be walking.

• During your flight remember to get up and walk around at regular intervals, and stretch your calves wherever possible. Stay hydrated and consider wearing compression stockings if you know you are at high risk of blood clots!

Above all, remember to pace yourself. Take your holiday as a time to properly rest!

It’s tempting to fit in as much as possible, if the next time you are abroad you will be travelling with a young child. Remember you will be much more tired than before, with a lower exercise tolerance and needing more frequent bathroom breaks!

Written by, Brooke Vandermolen, an NHS doctor currently working and training as a Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in London. Brooke has experience clinically, dealing with all aspects of women’s health and pregnancy, including assessing patients with a range of gynaecological concerns, and performing and assisting in surgical procedures. You can find Brooke's blog, The Obgyn Mum here and her Instagram channel is @theobgynmum.

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