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Can I Travel While Pregnant? The Myths & Facts You Should Know

Are you and your unborn baby planning a trip? Don't be discouraged by all the scared faces around you! Check our brief guide for safely traveling with a belly, for all the future mothers who just won't stay put.

Is it safe for pregnant women to travel? Pregnancy comes with many joys as well as some complications: you may have to rethink your eating habits, adjust your travel plans, or give up a glass of wine or two. Notice how I said “may have to”. For most matters, your doctor is the only one that can give you the thumbs up, as pregnancies vary from woman to woman. Nonetheless, there are numerous myths about pregnancy that are commonly believed. Many of these mislead passionate travelers, convincing them that travelling during pregnancy is off-limits.

Pregnancy doesn’t need to prevent women from pursuing their passion! With a little extra care, you can avoid the seemingly harmless actions that put your baby at risk and enjoy the rest of your journey.

Here are 5 myths about travelling during pregnancy that are often told to women:

Myth: First trimester is the safest time to travel

Fact: Travelling in your first trimester can actually turn in a rather uncomfortable experience. Not only do road trips and plane rides increase feelings of nausea, but they can also cause motion sickness. Also, the first 14 weeks of pregnancy are a crucial period, in which the incidence of miscarriage is rather high. It is preferable to stay close to your trusted Ob-gyn and delay your travels.

Tip: The safest time to travel is the second trimester (weeks 14 – 27), when the risk of premature labor and miscarriages is lower.

Myth: pregnant women cannot fly during their third trimester.

Fact: most airlines let ladies fly up to 37 weeks of pregnancy, though they often require from those who are close to their due date to hand in a fit to fly certificate issued by an Ob-gyn before departure. If you are away from home, you just need to find an English speaking gynecologist who can see you a few days before your flight. In general, it is not advisable to travel during the last month of pregnancy as you may go unexpectedly into labor… I bet you’d wish to be close to home, to your loved ones and to your trusted obstetrician.

Tip: If you decide to fly during your third trimester, make sure to follow this simple advice:

  • Carry a prenatal chart in your purse.  At the gate, crew members are likely to ask for a certification of your due date
  • Pick your seat in advance: prefer aisle seats with extra room to ease your frequent bathroom breaks and to stretch when needed
  • Always wear your seat belt, (over your upper thighs) to avoid injuries caused by turbulence
  • Stretch your legs every 30 minutes and walk for 5 minutes every hour to increase blood circulation and avoid blood clots
  • Keep hydrated with non-alcoholic beverages to lower the risk of venous thrombosis
  • Eat small, natural, and healthy treats at a regular rate to avoid motion sickness

Myth: airports’ metal detectors emit electromagnetic fields that are dangerous for an unborn baby

Fact: the radiation generated by metal detectors is so low that it does not represent a threat for women flying occasionally during pregnancy. Frequent travelers can track their level of exposure to radiations on the Federal Aviation Administration website. The limit considered safe for pregnant women is 1 millisievert, or mSv.

Tip: If you are still worried of the potential harm of metal detectors, ask for a “pat down” search. 

pregnant women travelling

Myth: pregnant women should not wear seat belts as these can harm the unborn baby

Fact: Not wearing seat belts is a major risk for yours and your baby’s health. Wearing seat belts, in fact, only represents a threat if not done correctly. Keep in mind that lap belts should be placed under the abdomen, as low as possible, while shoulder belts should be placed below your breast and above your belly.

Tip: Before you hop on your long fligh to Italy, take a minute to watch this tutorial by the Center for Women’s Health that explains the proper way to wear seat belts during pregnancy

Myth: pregnant women should change their walking habits, as walking for too long may affect the baby’s health

Fact: walking is actually a great way to stay fit during pregnancy, and has many health benefits.  For instance, did you know that walking can lower your risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia?

Tips: If you are travelling to Rome, walking will be even more enjoyable. Just pack a comfy pair of shoes, adjust the walking pace to your needs, and include in your sightseeing plan time for frequent breaks. It is, indeed, important that you listen to your body: do not push its limits. Also, do not forget to drink lots of non-caffeinated fluids and boost your energy levels with healthy snacks.

Must Do for all pregnant women travelling to Italy

There are a few things you may want to do before embarking on your vacation in Italy:

  • Subscribe to an insurance plan before your trip to Italy begins. Apart from routine visits and blood tests, unexpected complications may force you to delay your trips. While you might not mind an extra day or two in Rome, your wallet will suffer!
  • Research the contacts of a medical provider that can assist you while in Rome. This way, you will have someone to care for you, and guide you during your trip. Make sure to carry with you all medical records that concern your pregnancy!
  • Talk to your Obstetrician before leaving. While it is true that travelling is mostly safe for pregnant women, there are some exceptions. Women with complicated pregnancies – such as gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia – may be discouraged from travelling.

How safe your trip will be depends partially on the country you are visiting. Travelling to Rome will not be as risky as traveling to an exotic location in the jungle. Why? Non-drinkable water and infectious diseases, common in many countries, to name a few. Vaccinations may be required to visit some countries and not all of them are safe for pregnant women. Check your visiting country immunization requirements at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/.

In general, the rule of thumb for all pregnant women should be to disregard all non-medical advice and always ask a doctor: no one knows what’s best for you and your baby better than your ob-gyn!