9 Travelling Tips during Pregnancy
For mums-to-be who love to travel a lot, you may have many questions regarding the do's and don'ts of travel during pregnancy.
We spoke to Dr. Kartikeya Bhagat, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist of Grace Maternity and Nursing Home, Kandivali West and Dr. Sharmila Naik, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist. MBBS, DNB and practising in Apollo Spectra Multispecialty Hospital, Mumbai who have shared with us some extremely helpful tips for traveling during pregnancy.
1. Travel during the second trimester
The best time to travel during pregnancy would be the second trimester i.e. between 13-28 weeks. Traveling during the third trimester could be uncomfortable and tiring for an expecting mother. Conversely, as implantation is still taking place during the first trimester, the pregnancy is at a very delicate stage and risk of miscarriage is high. Due to hormonal changes, you may also go through a lot of nausea, vomiting and be more sensitive to motion sickness. Most importantly, when you travel on a plane, you can be more susceptible to falling ill due to being in a confined space with a large number of people. Catching an infection during the first trimester is not safe as antibiotics cannot be prescribed this early during the pregnancy as it can cause 'teratogenic' side effects i.e. physical or neurological growth deformities for life.
2. Take precautions
Dr. Kartikeya Bhagat emphasizes, "Just ensure that when you're travelling, you take care of the food and drink safe water. Avoid dehydration and eat every 2 -3 hours. Protect yourself from extreme temperatures; don't catch a cold and avoid exhaustion." Some other precautions to take include carrying all your prescribed medications including antiemetics, which help in preventing vomiting, as well as your prenatal vitamins. Also make sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before taking a meal.
"Also passing through the radiation scanners at airports can cause harmful effects on the growing foetus. While the radiation dosage is not that dangerous, being careful is advised," cautions Dr. Sharmila. Request to use a metal detector instead.
3. Look out for red-flags
Travel during pregnancy can get overwhelming and stressful, so you need to watch out for symptoms that warrant immediate medical attention. For example, bleeding, no matter how light, must be immediately attended to by a doctor. Also watch out for pain in the lower abdomen or back, dizziness spells, or severe headaches and blood pressure fluctuations which can lead to fainting. Light-headedness or easy fatigue could be due to anemia. As iron stores get depleted during pregnancy, regular iron supplements are needed from the second trimester onwards.
4. Stay active during long haul travel
Dr. Kartikeya Bhagat advises, "Don't sit for a long time in one position - take short breaks in a car journey, walk in the aisles in a plane. Wear stockings to prevent swelling in the legs during a long journey."
Opt for aisle seats during flights, so that you get some leg space and can get up for frequent walks. There is a danger of 'thrombosis' i.e. blood clots if the journey demands sitting for long hours. This could be a serious condition if not tackled on time. A physiotherapist consultation would help for further exercises during pregnancy. Remember, being active is important unless advised for bed rest.
5. Check special provisions for traveling by air, land or sea
Travel by air is permissible up to 34 weeks of pregnancy. After that, you would need a medical fitness certificate from your doctor before travel, but make sure to check for airline specific rules, as some airlines require a medical certificate even in the second trimester.[MN1] Long-haul travel by road, sea or rail late into your pregnancy is also not advised.
If you have a choice, rail is preferable over road, especially if the road is bumpy. Using a washroom is easier in a train or flights rather than road trips. If the option is available, tick 'doctor required' when reserving a train for long journeys so you can make sure to reserve a train with a medical car. Seasickness can get really bad in pregnancy, so it's best to avoid sea trips.
6. Avoid strenuous activities during travel
Avoid any form of strenuous activities or exercises or sport, which requires a lot of physical strength, or risky activities like water rafting and bungee jumping. Scuba diving is preferably avoided due to the change in pressure. Last but not the least, do not carry baggage more than 3-4 kg in weight as heavy lifting can cause threatened abortion or even a miscarriage.
7. Get help from the family
Husbands and immediate family members can be of great help and can pitch in by carrying the luggage, getting your meals on time or reminding you to stay hydrated. But most importantly, having them around in case of emergency is an added advantage.[AR2]
8. Avoid certain destinations
"Malaria, dengue or yellow fever harbouring countries are a strict no as you are not allowed taking live vaccines," says Dr. Sharmila. The CDC also recommends that pregnant women or women planning to conceive should avoid areas where they can be exposed to the Zika virus.
9. Enjoy the travel!
Pregnancy should not stop you from travelling. In fact, the second semester is a great time to travel as you might not find the time to take a leisurely trip until 6 months after giving birth! Dr. Sunita Rajani, a London-based Paediatrican adds, "In some cultures, pregnancy imposes a lot of restrictions on women which are more cultural than scientific. If you plan well, check with your Obstetrician and Gynecologist and look after yourself, you can very well enjoy travelling while pregnancy."
With all the do's and don'ts and precautionary measures, this list should help you to make informed decisions based on your health whether you can take a journey or not. Of course, while these travel tips are aimed at empowering you to make decisions, it's always advisable to check with your own Obstetrician and Gynecologist for more. Overall, enjoy your pregnancy, and take travel and leisurely breaks, as they are not only refreshing but also nourish the soul!
Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai and a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women's University in Mumbai. She started her career 16 years ago by writing children's books, e-learning, content management for international websites and magazines and writing lifestyle and feature articles. She's the founder of The Lifestyle Portal an e-publishing platform that focuses primarily on entrepreneur profiling, entrepreneur directory listing, workshop reviews, feature stories and more. She's also a Certified Parent-Child Play Practitioner and a Certified Story Teller.
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