Congratulations on your pregnancy! If you have already made plans to travel (either before or after finding out about your pregnancy) there are some things you will need to consider first.
Should I go ahead with my plans?
Some of us plan our vacations months or even years ahead. The last thing on your mind would be to cancel at the last minute.
However, your health and the health of your foetus should come first.
In general, as long as there are no complications with your pregnancy, it is safe to travel.
However, you should always make it a point to consult with your doctor/gynaecologist on your travel plans.
He or she will schedule regular pregnancy check-ups, whereby your health status will be monitored.
Based on his or her findings, your doctor will advise you on whether or not you can travel.
Do not proceed with your travel plans if you face complications such as vaginal bleeding, multiple pregnancy, or have a history of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, placental abnormalities, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (the foetus develops outside the womb).
Getting ready to travel
Whenever you travel, always make it a point to do the necessary due diligence.
Here are three important items to discuss with your doctor/gynaecologist:
• Get ‘certified’ – As a precautionary measure, ask your doctor for a letter certifying your fitness to travel.
This letter should not be dated more than ONE month from the date of your travel.
• Travel vaccines – Ask about the necessary shots relevant to your vacation destination.
However, live attenuated vaccines ARE NOT ADVISED during pregnancy.
• Learn specific remedies – Find out how you can treat common travel ailments (e.g. motion sickness, altitude sickness, acclimatising yourself to changes in climate, etc.)
Other items you will need to look at include knowing how to:
• Pace yourself – If you are going on a tour, you may want to adjust the pace of the tour to suit your pregnancy.
• Take safety seriously – Always use personal protective equipment even if they are uncomfortable to wear (e.g. special belt when travelling by car).
Although safety should be your priority, you can place a soft cloth between the safety belt and your body if it makes you uncomfortable; just check to ensure that the safety belt still functions properly and is positioned appropriately.
• Plan your travel – Some choices of transportation may require more planning, e.g. travelling by bus or car may mean making allowances for more restroom stops.
Do limit travelling time to no more than five to six hours. Take as many rest stops as necessary for short walks to help keep your blood circulating.
You need to keep yourself well-hydrated, so make sure you take adequate fluids. This will reduce your risk of developing blood clots, which are dangerous.
• Be prepared – Travel with copies of relevant medical records related to your pregnancy as a precaution. In case of emergencies, find out the address/phone number of the nearest doctor/hospital.
• Keep meds close at hand – Make it a point to carry your medications or pregnancy supplements with you when you travel, just in case your luggage goes missing (a small waist-pouch, handbag, purse, carry-on bag should suffice).
• Check your insurance coverage – Does it cover pregnancy-related problems? If not, check with your insurance provider on what options are available.
• Quality of healthcare – Check to ensure that the hospital/clinic at the place of your visit can handle complications, air medical transfer, as well as the availability and cost.
• Economy class syndrome – This “syndrome” is not confined to just economy class. It occurs due to the formation of blood clots in the veins of the legs, which typically happens during (or just after) long flights.
Also called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), you can minimise your risk by staying well-hydrated (drink plenty of water!), moving your legs by walking around often during the flight, or flex and extend your ankles, knees, and hips as often as possible.
This helps minimise the risk of DVT, which has potentially serious and even fatal consequences.
In general, the ideal time for pregnant women to travel long distances is during your second trimester as most people would have passed the morning sickness phase inherent in the first trimester.
It is best to spend your third trimester close to home in case of any emergency.
Dr Krishna H Kumar is a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist, and past president of the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia. This article is courtesy of Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.