Whether by plane, train, automobile, or even boat, traveling while pregnant involves its own set of challenges and guidelines. But a little advance planning along with some common sense can make all the difference in the world, anywhere in the world when it comes to pregnancy travel. The most important question is how safe is traveling in pregnancy. Generally traveling is safe when you are pregnant. Universal precautions include that avoid less important work, do things slowly rather than running around and take rest in between, wear loose-fitting clothes, drink plenty of fluids and walk and stretch at regular intervals. Always carry your pregnancy hospital notes, memorize your due dates, carry sanitary napkins, over-the-counter medications like pain-killers, anti-vomiting medicines, and your prescribed medicines. If going on a holiday abroad, always buy travel insurance, and take the vaccines that are recommended.
"It's wrong to say a categorical 'no' when it comes to traveling while pregnant," says Frank A. Chervenak, MD. Chervenak is a professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology and the director of maternal-foetal medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. "You need to individualize each and every situation," he says. For example, "I can imagine a scenario after eight months where travel is permitted."
The bottom line? "Discuss any travel with your doctor and see what he or she thinks," Chervenak says. "If your doctor is concerned, then you should be concerned and really weigh whether the travel is necessary."
"I always tell my patients no travel after 32 weeks, because if she delivers, she won't have me there," says Elizabeth Nye, MD, an obstetrician at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Centre in Chicago. "She may have to deliver in a strange place with a doctor she has never met."
PREGNANCY TRAVEL: BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
There is some general common-sense advice for all women who are traveling while pregnant no matter what transportation route you take or where your destination is:
- Consider buying trip insurance. "You never know what will happen during any pregnancy, and this way you are covered if you have to cancel your trip for any reason," Nye says.
- Schedule a check-up before your vacation so you can get a green light from your doctor.
- Travel with a copy of your prenatal records and copies of any relevant ultrasounds.
- Keep your prenatal vitamins and any other medications you need in your purse in case you get separated from bags.
- Program your obstetrician's number into your cell phone and make sure that your travel companion also has their number handy.
- Get a phone number of a local doctor just in case.
As long as you and your baby are fine, air travel is safe till 36 weeks of pregnancy. All airlines will allow travel till 28 weeks of pregnancy, and many allow till 34-36 weeks. Hence if you are in the last third of your pregnancy, enquire from the airlines before booking tickets. Air travel is not recommended after 36 weeks. It is recommended also to not travel by air in certain conditions like pre-eclampsia, placenta previa / low lying placenta if you are carrying more than 1 foetus (twin or triplet pregnancy), or if you are in labour. Inside the airplane, move out of your seat once every 30 mins and walk down the aisle. Choose an aisle seat for yourself as this will help you straighten your legs and move in and out easily. Always wear a seat belt. Drink plenty of fluids.
This is considered safe until 36 weeks. The universal precautions mentioned above would apply while traveling by train. Choose the lower berth for you instead of the middle or upper berth in the sleeper coaches. While traveling by local commuter trains within the city, try and avoid the super-rush hours where you may need to stand for long and the train is jam-packed with commuters. Claim the dependent seats for yourself.
Wear your seat belt WITHOUT FAIL, even if you are in the back seat. Buckle the belt over your hip bones under your belly. The upper shoulder strap should go above your belly through the center of the chest (in between your breasts). If you are on a long drive, take frequent stops where you are able to get out of the car and are able to stretch your legs and move around a bit. Again, keep hydrated.
*TRAVELING BY MOTORCYCLE/SCOOTER (Riding Pillion)
Not an ideal mode of transport when you are pregnant. The patient may have hypertension /giddiness & difficulty in balancing, they may fall so better to avoid motorcycle/bike traveling, but sometimes it may be inevitable, especially in a country like India. Make sure you sit with legs on each side of the seat as in case of a jerk or bump, you are less likely to fall. Avoid wearing a sari and do not take any chunni/dupatta. Keep away your chunni or dupatta in your bag as they may get coiled up in the wheel and in case of fall can cause strangulation. Drive slowly and avoid potholes as much as safely possible. Glide over bumps and speed breakers gently. Follow traffic rules while riding. Give appropriate indicators before each turn. Avoid speeding. Avoid zigzag trespassing.
*TRAVELING BY RICKSHAW/AUTORICKSAW/TOTO
These are common modes of public transport in India. These usually do not have any seat belts or any safety features. Also built -the material is flimsy. Also, the drivers are quite reckless and indulge in speeding. Hence best is to avoid, but again availing these may be inevitable. In that case, the safest thing is to inform the driver that you are pregnant and hence to drive gently and safely following traffic rules.