Nurture Article | The Portland Hospital Parenting Magazine
Autumn Issue 2012 | Sophie Goodchild
A relaxing getaway abroad seems like the perfect solution when you’re expecting. However, travelling during pregnancy means there’s an extra person to consider - your unborn child. Travelling is safe for most women with a bump on board.
Before you book, spend some time researching issues such as when it’s advisable to fly and any extra precautions you need to take.
When is it safe for me to travel?
Pregnancy expert Alison Wright recommends putting your exotic beach holiday on hold until after the first 12 weeks.
“The pregnancy is well established (then), most women feel fit and well and few medical check-ups are needed during this time,’ says Miss Wright, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Portland Hospital.
Another reason to stay put initially is that the risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy increases in the first trimester – although there’s no evidence that flying increases this risk.
Underlying medical conditions such as severe anaemia also increase the risks associated with air travel.
In the final stages of pregnancy, a growing bump can itself make travel uncomfortable. Furthermore, around one in ten pregnancies in the third trimester also end in a premature birth - or higher for women with a previous experience.
So getting your timing right is essential. Experts generally agree that the second trimester is the best time for travel. Most airlines have a cut-off point for expectant mothers of 34 weeks pregnancy or 32 weeks for a multiple pregnancy. Even if you meet this criterion, it’s best to have a doctor’s letter from 28 weeks, to avoid the stress of being quizzed at the airline check-in, says Miss Wright.
Am I at risk of deep vein thrombosis?
Like all airline passengers, pregnant women have a small risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – where the blood thickens, causing blood clots - from prolonged sitting and dehydration. However, pregnant women who spend eight hours or more on a cramped plane are ten times more likely to develop DVT.
To reduce the risk, mothers-to-be should take 75mg of aspirin before take-off, drink plenty of fluids, wear special stockings, don’t drink alcohol and move around regularly.
Should I be concerned about cabin altitude?
Cabin altitude needn’t be a worry. At 8,000 feet, the amount of oxygen in the blood lowers slightly and you may experience an increased heart rate or shortness of breath. However, this won’t affect your baby, explains Miss Wright:
“The blood in the baby has a higher affinity for oxygen so the baby is able to maintain oxygen saturation.”
Is it safe for me to have vaccinations?
Once you’ve been cleared for take-off, then you need to think about vaccinations and other disease protection.
Some jabs do pose a potential risk to unborn babies, says Miss Wright. Live vaccines such as Yellow Fever carry a weakened form of the virus, and Typhoid hasn’t been tested on pregnant women.
Malaria drugs all carry ‘a potential risk for the baby’ warning so it is probably best to avoid countries which require protection against these diseases.
Rubella - or German measles - is a risk in developing countries but the jab can’t be given during pregnancy.
Vaccinations which don’t use live viruses are generally considered safe for pregnant women.
“Most sources agree that there is no evidence of risk from vaccination of pregnant women with inactivated virus, bacterial vaccines or toxoids,” adds Miss Wright.
What can I do if I get traveller's diahorrea?
Stomach bugs and diahorrea can ruin any traveller’s holiday. While the bugs themselves won’t harm the baby, the side-effects such as vomiting will if you become dehydrated so Miss Wright suggests drinking sugary fluids.
“It’s very difficult to avoid getting travellers’ diahorrea. Be meticulous with hand washing; drink only unopened bottled water; don’t eat uncooked food.
“Rehydration with sugary oral fluids such as flat Coke is very effective though sometimes intravenous fluids may be required,” she says.
Once I've arrived at my dream destination, what about sunbathing?
Pregnant celebrities are always being snapped in their bikinis soaking up the sunshine. But pregnant women are more sensitive to the sun because of hormone changes, says Miss Wright.
“Some women develop melasma where they get brown patches on their face,” she explains. “The baby won’t be harmed though: it’s well protected (in the womb) from the sun.”
For most pregnant women, it is safe to travel with a bump on board and a holiday will probably do you the world of good. But if you still have doubts, then see your doctor.
“It’s always best to consult with both the airline and a doctor prior making travel plans, particularly to more exotic locations,” says Miss Wright.
* Avoid countries which require certain vaccinations such as typhoid and malaria.
* Drink unopened bottled water to avoid stomach upsets.
* Move around and keep hydrated on the plane
* If you have existing medical conditions, always consult with your doctor first