Disclaimer: This is general medical information and not specific medical advice. It does not and should not replace diagnosis or treatment by your healthcare provider. If you are seeking personal recommendations, advice, and/or treatment, please consult your physician. If you have an emergency, you should contact 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.
August 14, 2019 - The summer months are a very popular time for travel, when many pregnant women and their families make plans to travel. This post tries to answer some common questions and share current guidelines for traveling during pregnancy, but please remember that every pregnancy is unique and you should always talk to your personal doctor before traveling.
Travel precautions during pregnancy
Traveling can be safe in pregnancy, but there are certain things to consider and precautions that should be taken beforehand. First, it is important to note that traveling is not safe for all pregnancies, especially for women with medical conditions complicating the pregnancy. The best recommended time for travel during pregnancy is during the middle of the pregnancy, from 14 to 28 weeks.
Prior to any form of travel, it’s a good idea to:
- Schedule an appointment with your obstetrician to confirm it is safe for you to travel.
- Investigate the nearest medical facilities at your final destination in the event you need medical attention.
- Look for travel plans that include the most efficient mode of transportation.
- Consider buying travelers insurance.
Flying while pregnant - policies and safety
Most airline companies allow pregnant women to travel up to 36 weeks pregnant, though some international flights restrict pregnant women from flying after 28 weeks. Prior to flying, women should check with their chosen airline company to review rules and regulations. After 36 weeks many airline companies require an original copy of an obstetrician’s certificate stating the patients delivery date in order to assure patient safety.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, flying is safe in pregnancy, as the risk to a fetus from exposure to radiation during the flight is nearly negligible. Booking an aisle seat is best, as this will optimize the number of times you can get up to stretch your legs, which is encouraged about every 2 hours. It is important for women to wear their seatbelt at all times while flying given unpredictable air turbulence. When wearing a seatbelt while pregnant, you should place the buckle belt low on the hip bones and below the belly. Place the shoulder belt off to one side of the belly and across the center of the chest between the breasts.
Reduce your risk of deep vein thrombosis
A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in the veins of the legs and other parts of the body. Pregnant women are at increased risk of deep vein thrombosis, especially when sitting for long periods of time. The suggested methods to reduce this risk during travel are to drink plenty of water, wear loose fitting clothes, and walk/stretch at regular intervals. Supportive stockings or socks can be worn during travel to help reduce risk.
Take precautions to prevent Zika exposure
Prior to traveling, it is imperative for women who are planning to get pregnant and women who are currently pregnant to avoid locations where there are current Zika virus outbreaks. Zika is an illness spread by mosquitoes that can cause serious birth defects and developmental abnormalities in exposed and infected fetuses. The CDC has an interactive World Map of Areas with Zika Risk that allows you to search for location-specific Zika information.
Stay informed while traveling
Ways to find a healthcare professional while traveling include:
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Find an Ob-Gyn,
- The American Medical Association’s DoctorFinder
- The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers’ website
While traveling, you should seek medical attention if you have vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or contractions, ruptured membranes, signs of preeclampsia (headache, spots in vision), severe vomiting or diarrhea, or signs of deep vein thrombosis (swelling/redness/pain in legs).
- ACOG's Patient FAQ: Traveling During Pregnancy
- ACOG's Committee Opinion on Air Travel During Pregnancy
Cristina Zottola is a Mommy Matters MD Contributor.