All the usual precautions of travelling apply as a pregnant traveller. Try and minimise potential difficulties by bringing a copy of your maternity notes. If you are leaving the country make sure you are covered by medical insurance.
Holidays and travel by plane
If you’re planning a holiday while you’re pregnant, the best time is the middle trimester (weeks 13-26). By this time, the queasiness of early pregnancy should be passing and the risk of miscarriage has fallen.
Remember to take your maternity notes with you whenever you’re away from home for a couple of days or longer, in case you need to seek medical help. Most airlines won’t let you fly if you are within about a month of your due date, and some will require a letter from your GP or midwife saying you’re fit to fly when you’re seven months pregnant. Check with the airline before you book.
Check with your midwife or GP that there’s no medical reason to stop you flying, such as high blood pressure or a predisposition to deep vein thrombosis and that you can safely get all the vaccinations you need. Some vaccinations are not recommended during pregnancy, particularly in the first three months.
Coping with jet lag
The normal problems of jet lag: disrupted sleep; dehydration; stiffness and minor aches and pains; can be even worse for pregnant women. Bear this in mind when planning a trip during your pregnancy and try to avoid long-haul flights. If you are travelling by plane remember to:
- give yourself plenty of time to adjust to local times
- recognise it may take you a bit longer than before to adjust once you are home again
- take healthy snacks with you for the flight so you can follow your own eating schedule
- bring whatever comfort aids you are used to: an extra pillow, head rest or warm socks can make a big difference
- drink plenty of water! You are much more susceptible to dehydration while flying so be sure to keep your fluid.
Deep vein thrombosis
Pregnancy increases your risk of a Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (a blood clot that forms in a deep vein of the leg, calf or pelvis). It is more common just after you have had your baby. Your midwife will therefore assess your risk of developing a DVT at various stages in your pregnancy and after you have given birth. Please tell your midwife if you have a condition that makes a DVT more likely, have had a previous DVT, or your close relatives have had one.
The symptoms of a DVT usually occur in only one leg and can include
- a red and hot swollen leg
- swelling of your leg
During pregnancy, swelling and discomfort in both legs is common and does not always mean that there is a problem.
You should seek advice immediately from your doctor or midwife if you notice any of these symptoms or if you are worried.
There has been a lot of publicity linking long-haul flights and DVT. If travelling, drink plenty of fluids and move around frequently. Ask your GP or midwife if you are worried or wish to discuss in further detail.
Venous thromboembolism (VTE)
DVT can be serious because the blood clot may break off and travel in the bloodstream to the lung and form a pulmonary embolism (PE). Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a collective name for both DVT and PE. Diagnosing and treating a DVT reduces the risk of developing a PE.
For further information, see the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gyneacologists (RCOG) leaflet, Reducing the risk of venous thrombosis in pregnancy and after birth.
You should seek help immediately if you experience sudden unexplained difficulty in breathing, chest pain and feel very unwell.
In the car
There’s nothing to stop you driving or being a passenger in a car while you’re pregnant. For safety reasons, it’s important that you wear a seatbelt as normal. The lap strap should go across the hips, fitting comfortably under the bump, while the diagonal strap should be placed between the breasts around the bump. Don’t put either strap across the bump. In the last few weeks of your pregnancy you may not want to drive – your bump may get in the way.
Other things to consider:
- Healthcare cover in Europe is now covered by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This replaced the old E111 form and is valid for three to five years. You can apply for this online at www.direct.gov.uk.
- Give some thought to where you go. The things you may normally love on holiday – like hot sunny weather – may not be a great idea if you’re feeling uncomfortable and finding it difficult to sleep.
- Non-essential travel to malaria areas is not recommended.
- Special travel insurance, which covers medical costs and allows you to cancel for pregnancy-related reasons, is a must as most insurance policies do not cover the consequences of pregnancy.