Pregnancy is a time to take special care of your body and that of your unborn child. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see the world, too. Plan ahead and you can be comfortable and stay healthy whether traveling by car, bus, plane or train.
When planning a trip, remember: If your pregnancy is uncomplicated and you are not at high risk, traveling is usually safe for most women. However, ask your doctor about it before making plans or buying tickets.
Generally it’s best to travel between weeks 14 to 28, the second trimester of pregnancy. The first trimester risk of miscarriage has diminished, and premature labor, generally a third trimester phenomenon, is unlikely. Fatigue and nausea are usually under control by the second trimester as well.
You won’t get much to eat unless you’re traveling overseas, so bring along some nutritious snacks. Graham or whole-grain crackers, raisins, apples, carrots, granola bars, fresh or dried fruit and nuts or string cheese make good choices. To avoid food that may cause you problems, you can order special meals such as low-sodium or vegetarian.
Dress comfortably. Good picks are comfortable, nonrestrictive outfits. Loose clothing and “sensible shoes” are helpful.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), also known as traveler’s thrombosis, is the development of a blood clot that decreases or blocks blood flow through a vein deep in the body. Usually occurring in the leg or hip veins, it’s nothing to mess with. Prolonged periods of immobility — which is what air travel is all about— can precipitate formation of a clot, which might then break free and move to the lungs.
Because pregnancy is one factor that can increase the chance of developing DVT, take steps to ward off the “economy-class syndrome,” as it’s sometimes called.
Avoid tight panty hoses, knee-high socks or stockings. Don’t be a couch potato. Walk to the gate instead of taking the bus or moving sidewalk. On board, get up, walk around and stretch at least every hour. Simple stretching exercises, performed while in your seat, can also help. Try flexing and extending the feet. Toe clenching and ankle rotations are also helpful. Doing these stretches 10 times an hour is not excessive. Request an aisle seat or bulkhead row and you’ve got more room to stretch your legs or get up for a walk to the restroom. (If you travel by train, exercise is still in order, even if it’s just a stroll down the aisle.)
To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of liquids both before and during the flight. It’s a good idea to consume a glass of water or juice at least every two hours. Pass on alcohol and caffeine. And carbonated drinks not only increase gas, but fail to provide needed water.
Of course with the consumption of fluids come trips to the bathroom. Make frequent visits to avoid discomfort and urinary tract infections. Airline websites can offer expecting mothers additional information. Southwest Airlines (www.southwest.com/travel_center/pregnant.html), for example, suggests that traveling by air doesn’t usually cause problems during pregnancy unless delivery is expected within 14 days or less. Still, the airline notes, air travel has been known to cause premature labor or complications. Southwest suggests that women at any stage of pregnancy consult with their doctors before flying.
Most airlines allow women to fly up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. For international travel the cutoff may be earlier. Nonstop overseas flights cruise at higher altitude, which increases your heartbeat so that the baby also receives less oxygen. After your pregnancy has entered its 28 th week, British Airways (www.britishairways.com) ask that you bring a letter from your doctor, stating the pregnancy is uncomplicated and confirming the expected date of delivery. It is best to inquire at the airline you have booked if a specific policy is in place regarding pregnancy.
What if you’re traveling by car? You can still do your body a favor. Bring a cooler along. Fill it with milk, fruit, cheese, vegetables or yogurt. And you can always stop at a grocery store to purchase more of those good things.
Besides, a stop provides a chance to stretch. Exercise is just as important during car trips as it is on planes, and for the same reasons. Sitting for long periods of time not only increases the chance of DVT, but slows down digestive processes, increasing the chance of constipation. Use a snack stop to visit the bathroom and to stretch, which improves circulation and can fend off back pain.
Wear a seat belt. The risk of harm from wearing a seat belt is thought to be less than that caused by not wearing one. Place the lap-belt portion under your abdomen and across your upper thighs. It should be as snug as it is still comfortable for you, so should be the shoulder part of the belt.
Pregnancy is a condition best monitored by a physician, but it is not an illness. So go where you will. Just be sensible about it.