Whether you are required to travel for work or considering a “babymoon” vacation, you probably have questions about traveling during pregnancy. On a recent episode of Healthful Woman, Dr. Caroline Friedman gave some helpful tips for patients. You can listen to that episode on your favorite podcast platform or continue reading to learn more.
Restrictions on travel during pregnancy will vary for each patient, depending on their personal risk factors, their reason for traveling, their proposed destination, and how far into the pregnancy they may be. For example, Dr. Friedman says that “for patients who’ve had a history of a preterm delivery, we may feel more strongly about them not traveling at that point in their current pregnancy, as opposed to someone who has a lower risk of a complication or going into labor early.” Some medical conditions can also be exacerbated by travel, so these will need to be taken into consideration as well. Generally speaking, if your pregnancy is low risk, there are fewer reasons for you to avoid travel altogether. It is always a good idea to consult with your own obstetrician who can make a recommendation based on your unique situation.
Dr. Friedman advises patients not to travel after 36 or 37 weeks of their pregnancy, as this would greatly increase the risk of going into labor while away from home. She adds that “some airlines have cut-offs,” but these rules can vary and are “fairly arbitrary.”
In addition, it can be best to avoid travel during the first trimester, as this is the period when women are more likely to have symptoms such as nausea or vomiting that can make travel unpleasant. In addition, the first trimester holds a higher risk for miscarriage. If such complications arise while traveling, it can be much more difficult for patients to access the care they need. In general, the second trimester (between 13 and 24 weeks of pregnancy) is considered the best time to travel.
Your destination is another important consideration while planning a trip during pregnancy. Prior to traveling, it is important to research where and how you can access care locally if necessary. It is best to avoid very remote destinations to ensure you can easily reach a hospital or other health care facility as needed. With this in mind, a large number of destinations are safe to travel to during pregnancy, especially domestically.
One of the primary concerns of traveling by plane during pregnancy is the risk of blood clots. By sitting for a long period of time, blood can pool in the legs and feet, increasing the risk for clotting. For this reason, it is important get up and stretch your legs every 2-3 hours during a long flight. The same rule would apply for long-distance travel by car, train, or other modes of transportation.
While some express concerns about radiation while flying, whether from scans at airport security or the plane itself, Dr. Friedman reassures patients that the total radiation is well below any level of danger, and thus patients should not worry about this.
One thing to consider about traveling is the increased risk of COVID-19 infection, as well as other infections such as influenza. This is due to close proximity with large groups of people in airports, and also depends on the rates of infection at your destination. Lower your risk by getting vaccinated in advance, wearing proper protective masks, and following other CDC recommendations.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!