Dr Danie Schneider
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Somerset West

Travel during pregnancy

Is it safe to travel during pregnancy?

Traveling during pregnancy is generally safe for most women. As long as there are no identified complications or concerns with your pregnancy, it is generally safe to travel at all times during pregnancy. A general guideline is that it is safe to travel till you are about 35 weeks pregnant.

When is travel not recommended?

The best time to travel is generally in the middle of your pregnancy, as most problems occur during the first and third trimester. Travel may not be a good idea if you carry more than one baby. It is usually not advised to travel if you have complications like a low lying placenta, bleeding episodes, premature labour, preeclampsia and rupture of membranes. Traveling to areas with malaria is not recommended.

Are there specific things that I should do before going on a trip?

Schedule a check-up before you leave.
We will supply a letter to confirm your gestation as requested by the airlines. Please warn us in advance.
Know your estimated due date, as well as blood group.
Take our business card with contact details along and supply this to the attending physician in case of an emergency.
Plan ahead and take any medication you may need along.
Make your travel plans adjustable and consider getting travel insurance, if applicable.
Check your medical aid policy to see if you are covered internationally.

Can I travel at any stage of my pregnancy?

Paying attention to how you feel is the best guide to what you can do. In the first few weeks morning sickness can make traveling unpleasant. Towards the end of the pregnancy most women feel fatigued. The ideal time to travel is the second trimester.

Are there tips for traveling by car?

It is essential to buckle -up.
Make sure you use both the lap belt and shoulder belts for the best protection for you and your baby.
Secure the lap belt below your belly so that it sits against your hip bones and wears the shoulder belt across the center of your chest and to the side of your baby bump.
Keep the airbags turned on as the safety benefits outweigh any potential risks.
Move your seat as far back as comfortable and position the steering wheel about 20-25 cm away from your breastbone to allow the airbag to safely deploy without causing harm to your baby.
Try and limit the time you are cooped in the car to 5-6 hours and stop for regular short walks and stretches.
Stay well hydrated.

Tips for traveling by plane

Complete your flight before you reach 36 weeks.
Travel on major airlines with pressurized cabins.
Book an aisle seat so that you can get up and stretch your legs.
Avoid gas producing foods as this can cause additional discomfort.
Stay well hydrated.
Consider wearing compression stockings or socks to improve your blood flow.
Pack loose fitting shoes.

What about traveling to an area where malaria is found?

Since no method of malaria prevention works 100%, it is best to avoid travel to parts of the world where malaria is common.
If it is not possible to avoid travel, ways to help prevent malaria infection include using insect repellent, sleeping in mosquito-free areas, wearing long sleeves and pants and taking medication to prevent infection before, during and after travel.
The risks associated with malaria infection pose a greater threat to you and the developing baby than any risks associated with medication used for prevention.

Food and water safety

Travellers’ diarrhea is caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water and dehydration from travellers’ diarrhea can be more of a problem for pregnant women. In addition, other bacteria and viruses spread by food or water can lead to more severe illnesses that can cause problems for a pregnant woman and her baby. Therefore, if you are traveling in a developing country, you should carefully follow food and water safety measures:

• Eat only food that is cooked and served piping hot.
• Do not eat cold food or food that has been sitting at room temperature (such as a buffet).
• Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or fish.
• Eat fresh fruits and vegetables only if you can peel them or wash them in clean water.
• Do not eat unpasteurized dairy products.
• Drink only water, sodas, or sports drinks that are bottled and sealed (carbonated is safer).
• Do not drink anything with ice in it – ice may be made with contaminated water!

If you get travellers’ diarrhea, the best thing to do is drink plenty of safe beverages while you wait for it to go away on its own. However, antibiotics occasionally need to be taken and you might need to consult a doctor while on holiday. Bananas contain pectin that will bind stool and could offer relief.