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Traveling While Pregnant
By Marcia Passos Duffy

When I was pregnant with my first child I wanted more than anything to grace my parents with
the sight of their first grandchild blossoming proudly in my belly.  

So I planned a trip to Florida from New Hampshire by plane, alone, for a week of pampering at
my parent’s house.  While I was only 5 months pregnant (but very much “showing”), I did not
realize that traveling when you are pregnant is a quite different affair than traveling solo.  

I naively booked a window seat (not realizing what inconvenience I would cause my seat mate
when I had to get up several times to go to the restroom).  I underestimated how protective I
felt in crowded spaces when people accidentally bumped into my protruding belly.  And I also
felt more air sick than usual (and couldn’t take my motion sickness medication).

On my way back I made sure I was moved to an aisle seat (I was readily accommodated), got
some motion sickness “bands” for my wrists, and made sure I got to the airport in time to
position myself close to the gate to be the first in line board the plane when my seat was called.

Which brings me to the point of traveling while pregnant: plan ahead and take precautions.  
Traveling by plane is perfectly safe while you are in your first and second trimester; the third
trimester can be risky because of the chance of labor while in flight, and some airlines want a
written note from your doctor.  Some airlines have strict policies and won’t let you board at all
after 36 weeks for domestic flights; and after 32 weeks for international flights.

You should also check with check with your obstetrician before flying, and let him or her know
where you are going and for how long.  As long as there’s no concerns about your pregnancy
(such as preeclampsia, multiple pregnancies, a history of repeated miscarriages or other
complications) it’s generally safe to travel while pregnant.  BUT CHECK WITH YOUR
DOCTOR FIRST.

Here are some other tips to make your flight more enjoyable:

•        Request an aisle and/or bulkhead seat, preferably close to a bathroom. You want to be
where you can stretch out and slip in and out of your seat without disturbing others.  

•        Be careful walking the aisles.  The narrow aisles and small bathrooms make it hard for
pregnant women to navigate – add turbulence to the mix and you have a higher risk of falling.  
Make sure you hold onto the back seats at all times when walking the aisles.

•        Dress for comfort.  Wear loose cotton clothing and comfortable shoes that won’t pinch in
case your feet start to swell; make sure you bring along anything that will increase your
comfort, like a small pillow, support hose, or slippers.  

•        Ask for help. If you are traveling alone, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from the
flight attendants or other passengers, particularly when placing your carry on bags in the
overhead compartment (heavy bags could fall on you, or you could lose your balance).

•        Bring food and water. Carry your own snack food and water with you (we all know how
stingy the airlines can be handing out food during the flight).  If you are on a longer flight that
does provide a meal, you may want to request a special meal if you’re still experiencing
morning sickness and have an aversion to certain foods.

•        Bring a travel pack on board.   Fill it with anything that will make you feel fresh and
comfortable during the flight (do check with the airline’s policy first about bringing liquids on
board).  Don't forget your prenatal vitamins and any medications you require.  Bring along a
list of emergency contacts – including your doctor -- as well as your medical insurance and a
copy of your prenatal chart, just in case you have to see a doctor.

•        Travel on a commercial (large) plane.  Stick to major airlines (that have pressurized
cabins) and avoid small private planes. If you must fly on a private plane that is not
pressurized, make sure that the altitudes do not exceed 7,000 feet.

•        Avoid overseas travel if you can.  Particularly to those countries that require
vaccinations, which may not be safe for pregnant women.  Foreign travel can raise serious
issues for pregnant women who may be exposed to bacteria and viruses their body is not
accustomed to.  Studies have shown that pregnant women are also more prone to malaria and
West Nile virus.  If you must travel overseas, make sure you drink only bottled water (no ice
cubes made from tap water), make sure milk you drink is pasteurized, and avoid fresh fruits
and vegetables unless they are cooked or can be peeled.  Eat only well-cooked meats.  And
make sure there is a medical facility nearby and check with your insurance to make sure they
will cover you while traveling (anywhere –- overseas or domestically).  

•        If you are traveling locally (by car, train or bus), take similar precautions and make sure
there are opportunities for you to stop and stretch your legs every couple of hours.

And if this is your first child -- enjoy the freedom of traveling without kids for the last time for
many years!

(Article originally appeared in Parent Express, May 2008, and is available for reprint sale. Please contact
Marcia Passos Duffy at marcia@backporchpublishing.com for pricing.)
Photo Credit: Simona Balint
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