Staying Comfortable Traveling while Pregnant: What To Expect And How To Stay Safe

November 13, 2022

Traveling while pregnant is a little different than before you were pregnant. You may find that your body has changed in ways that make it more difficult for you to endure long car rides, jetlag, and such.

The days of just going where and when you want are coming to a close. Now you have to consider if you're "allowed" or if it is safe for you and your baby!

Whether you're going you're on vacation or moving around the country, traveling safely can be possible. Here are some tips you can do to keep yourself and your baby safe!

Why I am here and who I am:

Hey mama, I am Trish- AKA Labor Nurse Mama. I am a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6. I have labored thousands of mamas and delivered many, many babies. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confidential Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes. I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey!

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Is it safe to travel when you’re pregnant?

The short answer is yes. 

First things first: traveling while pregnant is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Some women have zero problems traveling long hours while others are more sensitive and require extra attention to their health. 

Factors such as your weight and age will also affect how easy it is to travel while pregnant.

Traveling during pregnancy can be stressful for a lot of reasons and one of them is worrying about the safety of your unborn baby. 

The CDC says pregnant women who must travel should consider postponing the trip until after they are done having a baby.

My advice? Talk to your healthcare provider before traveling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traveling isn't advised if you have a history of:

  • Miscarriage
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Premature labor or premature rupture of membranes
  • Placental abnormalities
  • Threatened miscarriage or vaginal bleeding during the current pregnancy
  • Toxemia, high blood pressure, or diabetes with any pregnancy
  • Heart valve disease or congestive heart failure
  • Blood clots

And dealing with...

  • Severe anemia
  • Chronic organ system problems that need to be treated
  • Infertility AKA difficulty getting pregnant
  • Pregnancy for the first time over the age of 35 years
  • Multiple fetuses in the current pregnancy

It is also advised for pregnant women to avoid traveling under the following conditions:

  • Trips that involve high altitudes
  • Any destination with outbreaks of life-threatening food- or insect-borne infections
  • Any destination where live-virus vaccines are needed or recommended
  • Any destination with high cases of malaria and Zika virus transmission

Side note: Still can't think of a baby name for your baby girl? Check out the Top 20 Sweetest Baby Girl Names of 2021

pregnant travel

How can you stay safe when traveling by plane?

Nowadays, many airlines offer special facilities for expectant mothers, such as comfortable seats and special food offerings. Some airlines have also created special kits for parents-to-be that contain everything from snacks to diapers. (I had an amazing experience on Japan Airlines when I flew with my little guy!) Most airlines will let you check in early (before takeoff) to ensure that you get a seat and are settled before the rush.

Here are some safety air travel tips:

  • Book an aisle seat. Aisle seats give you the most comfort and space. Alternatively, seats over the wing in the midplane region give you the smoothest riding experience too.
  • If you're dealing with morning sickness, book your flight during the time of the day when you feel at your best.
  • Fly at off-peak hours so that there's less crowding and stress during your plane ride.
  • While waiting, try walking every half hour. You can also do it during a smooth flight. The point is to flex your ankles during your flight. Doing so helps your blood flow and lowers your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), AKA blood clots in the veins.
  • Any flight that takes longer than 4 hours can be considered a long-distance trip which puts you at risk of DVT as well. Aside from walking every 30 minutes, make sure to drink lots of water. Compression stockings (which you can get from the pharmacy) will also help reduce leg swelling.
  • Fasten your seat belt at the pelvis level, right below your hips.
  • Worst case scenario: Consider purchasing a seat upgrade if there are space constraints at the gate during those times - even if it means paying more money upfront.
pregnant woman posing for a picture in between two mountains

How can you stay safe when traveling by car?

If possible, try to avoid long road trips but if you really have to drive long distances, be sure to do frequent stopovers, get out of the car, get water breaks, stretch, and move around. 

  • If possible, drive less than 5 hours per day. If it's a super long trip, break your travel into several days with a maximum of 4 drive times per day.
  • When driving in bad weather, be sure to drive slowly on slippery roads and take the appropriate precautions for driving in inclement weather conditions.
  • Fatigue, nausea, and dizziness are your worst enemy during car trips so make sure to stay hydrated and eat healthy, energy-giving foods such as fruit and nuts.
  • Fasten your seatbelt but DON"T DO IT ACROSS YOUR BUMP! Wear the cross strap between your breasts and the lap strap across your pelvis.
  • Keep air circulating inside the car.
  • You can also do some exercises in the car (when you're not driving), such as flexing and rotating your feet and wiggling your toes. This will keep the blood flowing through your legs and reduce any stiffness and discomfort. Wearing compression stockings while on long car journeys (more than 4 hours) can also increase the blood flow in your legs and help prevent blood clots.
  • Carry a cell phone or other personal communications device with you at all times so that you can call for help if needed.

How can you stay safe when traveling by ship?

In the past, pregnant women with no medical issues have been refused passage on ships especially those around 28 weeks on high-speed crossings and beyond 32 weeks on standard crossings. Ferry companies have relaxed their rules somewhat, but there are still many restrictions.

Here are some safety tips for your upcoming boat trip or cruise vacation:

  • Check the company's policy prior to booking your trip.
  • Call your cruise line to confirm that a healthcare provider is present on the ship at all times. 
  • Confirm if there is medical care at each port stop.
  • Ask the ferry company if your ship has passed a CDC health inspection.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if it's safe to take medicine for seasickness.
  • Always wash your hands.
  • Wash the fruits and veggies from the cruise to avoid infections.

How can you stay safe when traveling out of the country?

If you're traveling internationally, make sure that there are facilities in case of an emergency - such as an on-call obstetrician who can treat you quickly if needed.

  • Got health insurance? Find out what your health insurance covers when traveling outside the country. 
  • Consider buying travel insurance on top of your regular health insurance. A travel insurance covers your medical care while traveling in another country.  
  • Do research on the medical centers in the country you're planning to visit: find out which centers are medically able to handle pregnancy complications, perform emergency cesarean sections (c-sections), etc.
  • Ensure the country you're traveling to regularly screens stored blood for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C which is crucial if you need a blood transfusion or if your baby's at risk of Rh disease.
  • If possible, travel with someone who speaks the local language or access google translate.
  • Once you arrive, register with the American embassy or consulate. They can help you if you need assistance getting out of the country during an emergency.
  • Bring a copy of your prenatal and medical records wherever you go. 
  • Know your blood type!
pregnant woman holding flowers, posing for a picture on the sidewalk

How can you get ready for your trip?

  1. Stay healthy: Eat right, drink plenty of water, stretch regularly, and get plenty of rest - all these things will help keep your body healthy while traveling.
  2. Stock up on fruits and vegetables. These foods contain high levels of folate and other nutrients that help keep you and your baby healthy!
  3. Take naps during travel time if possible (but not always!). Taking frequent naps could help reduce stress and might even help prevent problems like dehydration or nausea.
  4. Eat light meals before takeoff and again upon landing (avoid spicy foods).
  5. Drink plenty of water throughout the day (even if it doesnt feel like you need it).
  6. Wear comfy footwear. Get shoes that you can easily slip on and off.
  7. Always make sure to tell your doctor before traveling, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions or if you need any prescription for the medications you're taking.
  8. Check the airline's website or call them to find out what precautions they take for pregnant people and how long their flights can be delayed.
  9. Keep a copy of your medical records with you.
  10. Make sure you're up-to-date on all medication, vitamins and other supplements that could become harmful if taken while flying.

When is the best time for Traveling while Pregnant?

The best time to travel during pregnancy is when you feel most comfortable and ready. This could be a few months before your due date, or it could be well after your due date. At the end of the day, your doctor will help you decide when to travel.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the safest time for a pregnant woman to travel is in the second trimester of her pregnancy, between 14 to 28 weeks. 

This is the time when you are biologically at your best state and are at the lowest risk for premature labor or spontaneous abortion.

When should you stop traveling while pregnant?

If you have any kind of history of blood clots, heart disease, or other medical issues, avoid traveling.

Also, if you're in your third trimester (around 25 to 40 weeks), you're advised to stay within a 300-mile radius of your home as per healthcare providers to be prepared for potential health risks such as high blood pressure, phlebitis, and false or preterm labor.

What happens if I get sick or go into labor while I’m traveling?

  • If you need medical care or encounter an emergency, contact your local hospital or doctor.
  • If you dont have an emergency number on file, call 911. 
  • If you become sick while abroad, its best to seek medical care as soon as possible in order to avoid serious illness or death. 
  •  If you cant get emergency treatment in time, seek out an International Care Clinic (ICC) near your hotel or where you're staying at-these outpatient clinics provide free medical care for travelers who need it most but may not have access to insurance or other resources back home.
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