Pregnancy and travel. These are 2 words guaranteed to trigger worry and anxiety. Is it safe? How late into my pregnancy can I travel? What travel options should I explore? Is driving better than flying? The list goes on.
Such questions were a big deal for my wife and me when she was pregnant with our first daughter. We used to live in Singapore, quite far from our families, and a place many expats viewed as an affordable place to sleep when on transit to Bali or Thailand. Those 2 things meant that travel would be a massive part of our lives at the time.
So when we found out my wife was pregnant a little sooner than planned, having already booked a two-week hike holiday in Nepal (which would fall right in the middle of peak morning sickness), the big question was, could we still go? I’ll go straight to the happy ending; we went. We had a fantastic time, and 7 months later, our daughter was born strong and healthy. But if you’re weighing the pros and cons of traveling while pregnant, we have a few tips for you.
7 tips for traveling when pregnant
1. Seek medical advice before you do anything else
The first thing we did was speak to our obstetrician. She was apprehensive about our choice of destination and the level of activity for the trip. It was more of a concern about how much my wife would enjoy the experience amidst first-trimester queasiness than a medical objection. So we got the green light, along with a fit-to-fly form for the airline stating that my wife was pregnant and certified safe to travel.
Of course, every pregnancy is different, and only your doctor knows enough about your pregnancy to advise on whether you should travel or not. Hence, this first step is the most important one. Google cannot tell you it’s safe. Neither can your friends or even myself. Your doctor can and, in most cases, probably will.
2. Get your timing figured out
In most cases, the consensus is that flying right up to 36 weeks is safe (if not necessarily comfortable, especially later on). You might want to consider avoiding travel in the first trimester for two reasons. Firstly, you’re probably not going to be feeling that great, and secondly, 80% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester. But within that 12-36 week window, with your doctor’s blessing, you’re good to go.
3. Check your airline’s policy for pregnancy travel restrictions (if you’re flying)
Some airlines have stricter rules and won’t let you fly after 28 weeks. For others, it’s somewhere around 28-36 weeks. The important thing is to check before you book, and, in any case, make sure you have that fit-to-fly form from your doctor, with a recent date on it. If you’ve already booked, then the good news is that many airlines allow flexible rebooking if you’ve gotten pregnant since buying your ticket and would be traveling later in the pregnancy. It’s advisable to put on compression socks to help mitigate the increased risk of blood clots, especially on longer flights.
4. Check with your insurer
Is pregnancy an insured risk on your travel insurance? If you need pregnancy-related medical care while traveling, this may not be included in your policy, and you could be heavily out of pocket, so check with your insurer before you travel. Often you can add this risk as extra coverage (for a fee, of course).
5. Research on your destination
Sometimes reasons for or against traveling may come down to the place you’re going to. These are some important questions to ask yourself:
- Will I have access to clean drinking water, adequate medical services, and reliably safe food?
- Are there any other risk factors to consider, such as altitude? Doctors advise against sleeping above around 12,000 ft elevation due to decreased oxygen levels.
- What vaccinations will I need, and are they pregnancy-safe?
- Will there be mandatory hot yoga? Ok, that’s a joke. But think about the activities your holiday may involve, and check whether they are suitable during pregnancy.
6. Carry a copy of your doctor’s notes with you
If you see a doctor before traveling, it will help to have their notes with you for reference. We took ours. We didn’t need them, but we were glad to have them just in case.
7. Adjust your expectations
If you’re traveling early in your pregnancy, there’s a decent chance you may not be feeling 100%. That was the case for my wife. She still says that the Nepalese scenery was worth it, but it’s not something we’d exactly recommend. I’m not saying don’t go, but think about how packed your travel itinerary is and whether you’ll have enough time to relax if you’re not feeling that great. Later on in your pregnancy, you may not have the energy to go for a full day of sightseeing.
Safe travel for pregnancy
These tips are based on our experience. We went on probably one of the riskier trips to take for a first-time mom in early pregnancy. Thankfully we took in medical advice, and we were as careful as possible. Everything worked out great.
Hopefully, that shows that you still have a ton of great safe travel options while pregnant and that by taking a few necessary steps in advance, you can always go for that holiday you badly need!