Can't decide if your trip is a good idea? Read on...
With the holiday season here, having to stay at home because you are pregnant may very well put a damper on things. However, just because you have precious cargo in your tummy does not mean you can’t enjoy your holidays. Depending on where you want to go, how you want to get there and how many weeks pregnant you are, it will either be safe or it won’t.
Decisions on whether or not to travel during pregnancy depend on the destination, the type of travel and availability of medical care should there be an emergency. If you’ve planned a shing trip to Lake Malawi in the middle of malaria season, forget it. If your flight is shorter than two hours and you’re just over 30weeks, it’s probably not a problem. International travel should be ruled out in the third trimester unless it’s unavoidable and the airline and your doctor have given their approval. For women with a medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or previous complications such as a miscarriage or premature labour, flying is a no-no at any time during her pregnancy and long-distance travel should be kept to a minimum. It’s probably safest to travel in the second trimester and not in the first or the third.
If travel can be avoided in the third trimester, cut your losses and focus on your health and the safety of your unborn baby. As nursing sister Carla Standford from the Travel Clinic in Bedfordview, Gauteng, says, “Low risk does not mean no risk.” One has to take many circumstances into consideration and it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.
Malaria and other innoculations/vaccines
Most authorities do not advise pregnant women to go to a malaria area – especially if she is from a non-malaria country with no natural immunity to this disease which can be fatal for her baby. Additionally some of the preventative drugs (chemoprophylaxis) such as atovaquone/proguanil are not recommended during pregnancy because safety has not been proven. Mefloquine is prescribed after the first trimester but only if travelling is completely unavoidable.
If you’re planning to visit a country that needs recent inoculation documents, many of the live vaccines (which are made with living viruses or bacteria) should be avoided during pregnancy– especially in the first trimester. According to the vaccine website there are as many as 23 travel vaccines ranging from anthrax to yellow fever.
People carrying the HI virus need to take extra precautions because some vaccines are not recommended when the immune system is compromised. If you cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons but need proof to travel, your doctor can give you a waiver letter if he considers the risk acceptably low. You should also contact the embassy of the countries you plan to visit for more information.
- Flying is not recommended by most airlines especially from 35 weeks onwards in case you go into labour on board the aircraft.
- Travel to countries where there is good medical care should an emergency arise.
- Make arrangements to be comfortable while you're travelling.
- Avoid countries that require inoculations.
Coping with third trimester discomforts and travelling
Sometimes travel in the third trimester is unavoidable; perhaps there is a family wedding, funeral or illness. Find out about hospital facilities at your destination and contact your medical aid to confirm which facilities you can use. Take a letter from your doctor that records your gestational history, blood tests and blood group and prescribed medications. If you’re not sure how long you will be away, pack a few emergency items such as sanitary pads, disposable panties, wet wipes, glucose tablets and a babygro.
Driving long distances
- Have regular "pit stops" to empty your bladder and walk around.
- Have cooled bottled water in the car with you and drink frequently to prevent any dehydration.
- Nibble on fruit and yoghurt.
- Cover the window to prevent prolonged exposure to the sun.
- Take "preggie lollies" in case you feel nauseous.
- Take heartburn tablets if you've needed them.
- Wear a loose-fitting dress and comfortable shoes.
- Make sure your cell phone is charged with the number of your destination.
- Travel when it's coolest- early morning or late afternoon.
- Look after your driver to make sure that you get there safely.
- Speak to your doctor first- if you also have high blood pressure and protein in your urine, he is unlikely to let you go.
- Sit on the back seat with your legs up, but keeping your safety belt on.
- Rotate your ankles frequently.
- Get out of the car and walk around every 30 minutes.
- Speak to your doctor- unless the risks are minimal or travel is an emergency, it's probably best not to go if you've experienced contractions.
- Contractions are sometimes caused by a bladder infection that may need antibiotics to clear it.
- If these are mild Braxton-Hicks contractions, slowly breathe through the contractions, and when possible, stop the car and walk around a bit.
- You will need to empty your bladder more often, so stop at every garage you see.
- See your doctor to rule out bladder infection.
- Drink cranberry juice.
- Don't cut back on liquids- you need these to stay hydrated.
- If you're leaking amniotic fluid (this warrants wearing a sanitary pad) you definitely should not be travelling.
When you reach your destination
Don’t carry any suitcases – all you need to do is freshen up and relax! Remember that your health is important for you and for your baby. As a general rule, minimise travel during your third trimester, no flying after 35 weeks, and make sure you have access to good medical care– otherwise, rather don’t go!