Traveling for Two

TRAVELER: Prostock-Studio

Being pregnant doesn’t necessarily mean you have to skip the vacation—you just have a few more things to consider before it’s wheels up.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a professional organization for obstetrician-gynecologists, pregnant women can still travel safely until they are close to their due dates.

Here, you’ll find the most-up-to-date best practices for planning a trip with an extra passenger.

The Timing

How far along you are in your pregnancy will influence your travel experience. The best time to travel while pregnant is between 14 weeks and 28 weeks, according to ACOG. This is in part because, by that time, morning sickness has usually improved and moving around isn’t too much of a challenge yet. Additionally, most pregnancy emergencies happen during the first and third trimesters.

When scheduling a trip, you also need to think about how your body may be different by the time vacation rolls around. Clothes will fit differently, your appetite could change and, most noticeably, you may need to know where the nearest bathroom is at all times.

A 2021 study published in the National Library of Medicine found that upwards of 40% of pregnant people have trouble controlling their bladder during pregnancy, with increasing prevalence the more weeks into gestation. This means that the further along you are, the more pressure there is going to be on your bladder.

With limited access to bathrooms, packing a hygiene kit and a change of clothes just in case becomes important.

The Method

When it comes to traveling while pregnant, not all methods of travel are equal. Whether you go by car, plane or boat, each avenue comes with its own safety precautions and risks.

ACOG cites these guidelines for moms-to-be who are hitting the road:

• If you are planning an extended stay or are close to your due date, it may be worthwhile to have an infant car seat ready. Install the car seat in the back seat of the car at least three weeks before your scheduled due date.

• If you plan to be the driver of the car, pay attention to the space between you and the steering wheel. ACOG recommends that if the car has a tilt steering wheel, you should make sure it’s angled toward your breastbone rather than your belly or head. Finally, never forget the seatbelt. The lap belt should be buckled below the belly, snugly across the hips and pelvic bone. The shoulder belt should be across the chest, between the breasts and over the mid-portion of the collar bone.

• If you plan to fly to your destination, consult your OB-GYN first. Some medical or pregnancy conditions can be worsened by flying, and emergency medical care may not be readily available.

Seatbelts are usually only applied on the plane during takeoff, landing and turbulence, but because turbulence can’t be predicted all the time, ACOG recommends that pregnant women use their seatbelts continuously while seated.

Long travel times also increase your risk of suffering a blood clot, or more specifically, a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVTs are a type of blood clot that can form in the legs during travel because the legs stay immobile for a long time with little room for movement, according to the American Society of Hematology.

To help prevent DVTs, ACOG advises pregnant women to wear support stockings, move periodically, avoid restrictive clothing and stay hydrated.

General Safety

Whether you’re at a rest stop, on a cruise or miles high, there are a few general precautions to pay extra attention to for your extra passenger.

ACOG advises pregnant travelers to wash their hands often with soap and water and to pack hand sanitizer for the times when a sink isn’t in reach. The hand sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol.

Before you go, check online and note the nearest hospitals or urgent care centers around your destination.

If you are leaving the country, travel insurance can go a long way in providing peace of mind. Travel insurance can help protect against losses like missing luggage or it can cover you in more serious situations like a health emergency.

When to Skip the Trip

Always discuss your travel plans with your OB-GYN beforehand. Some pregnancy complications can make travel risky, including pre-eclampsia or premature rupture of membranes (PROM).

To be safe, ACOG recommends scheduling a prenatal checkup before you go. This is important because your OB-GYN can confirm your due date, check that you’re up to date on your vaccinations and inform you of any risks or symptoms to watch for while on your trip.

Your OB-GYN can also advise you about which medications are safe in the event you get seasick, airsick, carsick or just plain sick.

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