Safely Traveling When Pregnant
If your work (or pleasure) requires travel, you may have concerns about traveling when pregnant. Most routine travel, even air travel, should pose no problem, but check with your healthcare provider just in case.
Treat Yourselves to a Fling Before Baby Arrives
After baby comes, candlelight dinners intended for two, even your bed, may have to accommodate an added guest. The best time to be able to enjoy traveling when pregnant the most are during the fourth through the sixth month. In the first trimester, you are likely to be too tired or too nauseated to enjoy your vacation and in the last trimester you may be too uncomfortable.
Keep Your Feet on the Ground During the Last Month
Domestic airline regulations prohibit air travel in the last four weeks of your pregnancy (36 weeks pregnant.) Foreign airlines prohibit air traveling when pregnant after 35 weeks. Don’t count on flight attendants being trained midwives. If you look obviously pregnant, airlines require a note from your healthcare provider stating your estimated date of delivery. If you are at risk of delivering your baby prematurely after you are 25 weeks along, it’s safest not to travel to any place that is not equipped with newborn intensive care facilities.
Position Yourself for Comfort
Request a seat as far forward on the aircraft as possible for traveling when pregnant. Not only is the air circulation better in front, it’s easier to get on and off the aircraft. Some women find a window seat helpful for minimizing early-pregnancy queasiness; others prefer an aisle seat, which makes it easier to walk and go to the bathroom. Many mothers-to-be ask for the bulkhead seats, which have the most legroom. (However, their armrests are stationary, which can restrict your sideways mobility and prevent you from stretching out should the adjacent seat be vacant.) Pregnant women are not allowed to sit in exit rows because the occupants of those seats are expected to assist with opening a heavy door in an emergency. If you want to be near an emergency exit, choose a seat in the row behind the exit row; seats in the row in front of the emergency exit don’t recline.
If you are traveling with a companion, request the aisle and window seat, and ask that the middle seat be left vacant to give you some extra space for maneuvering unless the space is needed. If you can upgrade to a more comfortable class, now is the time to pamper yourself. Air circulation is usually better in the first-class cabin, too. Cushion your growing body with extra pillows. Elevate your feet as much as possible and walk frequently during the flight to lessen leg swelling. On long flights, expect your feet to expand a size no matter what you do. Once you remove your shoes, you may not be able to get them back on, so be sure to take along a roomier pair, or even a pair of slippers.
Sit in Clean Air while Traveling when Pregnant
If traveling when pregnant, absolutely avoid flights where smoking is allowed. (While smoking is not permitted on domestic flights, some foreign carriers still permit smoking.) Even though aircrafts are divided into smoking and non-smoking sections, trying to keep the air in one section smoke-free is like trying to chlorinate half a swimming pool.
Drink to Your Thirst’s Content – and More
Airline air dries the mucous membranes of mouth and nose and can contribute to dehydration. Drink plenty of caffeine-free, non-alcoholic fluids before, during and after the flight.
Humidify the Air
The humidity of cabin air is only around seven percent. Besides being uncomfortable to your nasal passages, dry air can contribute to dehydration. In addition to drinking extra fluids while traveling when pregnant, prevent your nasal passages from drying by breathing the steam from a hot cup of water. You can also take along a bottle of saline nasal spray (available at any pharmacy without a prescription), and spray some of the salt water into your nose every hour or so.
If you’re planning on traveling when pregnant during your first trimester or are still experiencing morning sickness, calling ahead to request a special meal can increase your chance of getting the airline food most friendly to your queasy stomach. Better yet, pack your own already tested munchies. Alert the flight attendant of any special needs.
Avoid Non-Pressurized, High Altitude Flights
As you probably know, most airline cabins are pressurized to compensate for the lower levels of oxygen available at high altitudes. Once you get to 7,000 feet above sea level, oxygen levels decrease as altitude increases. When you make your reservations, be sure you’re getting a plane with a pressurized cabin. Be especially careful with traveling when pregnant on commuter flights, as they are not pressurized, since they usually fly at low altitudes.
While a short time spent in an unpressurized cabin above 7,000 feet is unlikely to harm your baby (baby’s oxygen level in the womb is already lower than mother’s), it can reduce the oxygen in your blood, causing you to feel lightheaded and impair your thinking and ability to move. (Pregnant women should avoid vacationing at altitudes greater than 7,000 feet. Some studies show a statistical correlation between living in high altitudes and having lower birth weight babies.)
Pregnant women, like senior citizens, should always be given a seat on a bus or assistance with luggage. It would appear, however, that many people are afraid of insulting a woman’s independence by offering aid. Don’t be afraid to ask! Be especially careful to avoid stretching and reaching into overhead compartments for heavy luggage. You don’t want to overtax any muscles unnecessarily; pregnancy is not the time to strain a muscle.
Consult your Doctor Before Traveling When Pregnant
Check with your doctor to be sure you do not have any complications of pregnancy that would put you at risk of a preterm delivery or other dangers: preeclampsia, high blood pressure, diabetes that is poorly controlled, multiple pregnancies, incompetent cervix, repeated miscarriages, previous multiple premature births or a baby who is not growing optimally in the womb. Many obstetricians encourage women with these complications to avoid airline travel or any long trips in the last three months of their pregnancy.