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Precautions Allow for Smooth Travel While Pregnant

TUESDAY Dec. 29, 2009 -- Traveling during the holidays can be difficult, even more so when you're pregnant. Hauling luggage, navigating crowded airports and sitting for hours in cramped seats can make you wish you stayed home.

But you don't want to miss the eggnog at Grandma's annual gathering, right?

To avoid problems, pregnant women should take a few precautions, Dr. Charles Hux, an obstetrician and maternal fetal medicine expert, advised.

"Most women can safely travel during pregnancy," said Hux, who also appears on cable channel TLC's "A Baby Story." "With a little extra planning and precaution, you should not encounter any problems."

Hux offers these tips for traveling while pregnant:

  • Inform your obstetrician of your plans. Because the most common pregnancy-related emergencies happen in the first and third trimesters, the second trimester is generally considered the safest time to travel, Hux said.
  • Reconsider traveling if there are complications. If you've experienced second- or third-trimester vaginal bleeding, have gone into premature labor in the past, have preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), type 1 or type 2 diabetes, sickle cell anemia or the sickle-cell anemia trait or are carrying multiples, your obstetrician may recommend you stay home.
  • Air travel is safe for most women up to 34 weeks of pregnancy, provided there are no complications, Hux said, though rules on airlines may vary. Some airlines permit women to fly later in their pregnancies with a letter from the doctor stating how far along they are on the date of flying. Don't lie. If the plane has to be diverted because you go into labor, you may be billed the costs, which can be many tens of thousands of dollars, Hux noted.
  • Before traveling, locate the hospital nearest to your destination. Be prepared for an emergency by packing your medications and a copy of your medical records.
  • Stick to low-risk physical activities. Vacations are great for taking up new skills like windsailing or water skiing -- except when you're pregnant. Be cautious about trying new types of physical activities because pregnancy can impact balance and coordination.
  • Avoid swimming in the ocean. Ocean swimming can increase the risk of vaginal or womb infections, which could lead to preterm delivery, Hux noted.
  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids when traveling or flying. Dehydration can cause the uterus to contract. If in a foreign country, stick to bottled water. This includes staying away from ice cubes, too.
  • Take anti-nausea pills if needed for travel sickness. Anti-nausea medications can be taken safely during pregnancy.
  • Move about while traveling. To reduce the risk of fluid accumulation in your legs and feet, get up and walk around the cabin once every hour. Support stockings can also help. Wear flat, comfortable shoes.
  • Fasten your seat belt. Don't forget to buckle up, with your seat belt below your belly.

More information

The American Pregnancy Association has more on traveling while pregnant.

Posted: December 2009


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