What To Know About Travel During Pregnancy  

Your second-trimester is usually the best time to travel
Pregnant woman and partner looking on ipad while waiting for flight at the airport.

Whether you’re supposed to travel for work or are hoping to head out for a babymoon before your due date, you probably have more than a few questions about traveling while pregnant.

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Is it safe? Is flying out of the question? What happens if you go into labor while you’re far from home?  

Before you book any upcoming trips, there are a few factors to take into consideration. Ob/Gyn Kristen Ekman, MD, walks you through what to think about before you hit the road (or the skies or the seas or … you get the picture).  

Can you travel while pregnant? 

It’s generally safe to travel during pregnancy, but you should always talk to your healthcare provider beforehand and make sure you have a plan in case of any medical emergencies.  

“For the most part, the closer you are to the due date, the closer you should stay to home,” Dr. Ekman advises. “Most airlines restrict pregnant passengers from boarding planes in the last month of pregnancy.” 

Things that may prevent travel during pregnancy 

As with so many other aspects of pregnancy, you’ll need to plan ahead before you head out. Dr. Ekman shares a few things to consider before you travel.  

How far along you are 

There actually is an ideal time to travel during your pregnancy — the second trimester. It’s typically when people feel their best during pregnancy.  

Your risk of complications is lowest during your second trimester, and by then, nausea from your first few months of pregnancy has likely faded. Remember, of course, that anything can happen at any time, but because you’re not close enough to your due date, you don’t always need to stay super close to home. 

“For many people, the first trimester is dominated by morning sickness and discomfort as your body adjusts to the pregnancy,” Dr. Ekman explains. “The third trimester is generally more uncomfortable, it’s a good idea to be near your healthcare provider as your due date approaches.” 

Medical conditions 

Before traveling, you should talk to your healthcare provider and discuss any medical conditions you may have. You may need to adapt your travel plans if you have a medical condition like: 

If you have pre-existing conditions, it’s especially important to bring your medical records with you or to make sure you can access them remotely.

Whether you’re carrying multiples 

Your risk of delivering early goes up if you’re carrying twins, triplets or other multiples, so talk to your healthcare provider about the best time for you to travel. “Your provider may suggest that you stay closer to home,” Dr. Ekman says.

Outbreaks of illness or disease at your destination 

Before takeoff, check your destination to see if it’s home to any actively spreading diseases, like Zika and COVID-19, which can harm both you and your fetus if you become infected while pregnant.

“The Zika virus can be spread by a direct mosquito bite, as well as through sex,” Dr. Ekman says. “It’s a serious condition that has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, which can shorten your child’s life expectancy.” 

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If you need to travel somewhere that’s experiencing an outbreak, make sure you talk to your healthcare provider about how to prevent getting sick. And take extra care to avoid mosquito bites by using an insect repellent and keeping your skin covered. 

Vaccinations for travel while pregnant 

Some vaccines aren’t recommended for people who are pregnant, including live vaccines like the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Others, like influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, are generally considered safe during pregnancy.  

If you’re traveling to an area where you would typically receive vaccinations to protect yourself from disease, talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated while pregnant.  

“Sometimes, the risk of getting sick is greater than any side effects of the vaccine,” Dr. Ekman says.

Flying while pregnant 

Most people can safely travel by airplane during pregnancy, but talk to your healthcare provider ahead of time to make sure you don’t have any medical conditions that could cause a complication during your flight.

“On longer flights, you may need to get up to stretch your legs and avoid blood clots,” Dr. Ekman notes.  

When should you stop traveling when pregnant?  

Remember, your due date is an estimate. The end of pregnancy can be unpredictable, and you can go into labor at any time in the last few weeks.  

“Most healthcare providers recommend that you stay closer to home in the third trimester, and especially in the last month of pregnancy,” Dr. Ekman says. “If you need to travel at the end of your pregnancy, you’ll definitely want to plan ahead and know the locations of hospitals and medical centers near your destination.” 

You may need to stop traveling sooner if there’s a complication during your pregnancy that needs to be closely monitored by your provider, like preeclampsiaplacenta previa, or a history of preterm labor.  

When can you no longer fly in an airplane? 

When you should avoid air travel largely depends on which airline you’re flying and whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally.

Each airline has its own policy about when in pregnancy you can no longer fly, so make sure to review the guidelines for your particular airline before booking. You may also want to call ahead to make sure you’ll be able to fly.

In general, most airlines won’t allow you to fly in your last month of pregnancy, though some limit travel as early as 28 or 29 weeks of pregnancy. And international flights often have an earlier cutoff for pregnant passengers than domestic flights, too.

Airlines now don’t typically reimburse for medical restrictions, so if you do plan a flight during your pregnancy, it is always a good idea to consider purchasing travel insurance. 

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Tips for traveling while pregnant 

When you’re traveling during pregnancy, you should always be prepared for a medical emergency. Dr. Ekman shares a few safety precautions that you should follow just in case something happens. 

1. Stretch your legs 

Getting up and moving around during travel can help prevent a condition called deep vein thrombosis from developing. It happens when blood clots form and travel throughout your body — and your risk is higher during pregnancy.

“This could mean stopping the car for stretching breaks and walking around for a few minutes,” Dr. Ekman says, “or it could be getting out of your seat on a plane or train. In those cases, try and book an aisle seat so that it’s easier for you to get up.” 

2. Follow general safety guidelines 

These commonsense travel tips will help keep you healthy and safe when you travel.  

  • Look into the water quality at your travel destination. Contaminated water can bring serious illness, so in some places, it’s best to drink bottled water to avoid getting sick — and remember not to add ice to your drinks. 
  • Follow nutrition guidelines. You may not be able to take part in all the culinary adventures you’d enjoy if you weren’t pregnant. Don’t eat raw fish, and use caution eating food from street vendors.  
  • Always wear a seat belt. It should be fastened across your hips (under your belly) and the shoulder belt should go across your body and between your breasts. 

3. Communicate with your health insurance 

Before you travel, check in with your health insurance company to learn about what kind of coverage you have in the location where you’re headed. In some cases, like international travel, you may need to purchase insurance just for your trip. 

4. Bring your medical records with you 

“It’s always a good idea to bring a copy of, or have access to, your records through your hospital’s electronic medical record, of your medical records with you, just in case you need treatment while you’re away from home,” Dr. Ekman says. “If you are high risk or have other conditions, it’s especially important.” 

If you have a medical emergency or need treatment of any kind when you’re far from home, these records will ensure that you get the right care. The entire history of your pregnancy and any pre-existing conditions you may have will all be included in these documents.

If you don’t have your records, an outside hospital can often contact your doctor’s office directly and get your medical information. So, it’s always a good idea to have your doctor’s office phone number easily accessible.  

It’s also smart to do some research into medical centers and hospitals near your destination in case you need one in an emergency. Remember that not all hospitals or medical centers have obstetric units. 

5. Know where to go for care  

No matter how you’re traveling or where you’re going, it’s important to know where you could receive care if you needed it. Before you go: 

  • Identify the nearest medical center or hospital near your vacation destination. 
  • If you’re on a cruise ship, ask about the onboard medical care and what’s available at the ports where your ship will stop. The same goes for traveling by train. Cruise ships typically have some restrictions on pregnancy travel, so be sure to research those before booking. 
  • If you’re traveling by car, figure out which hospitals or medical centers are along your route.

“This kind of advance planning can make all the difference if you experience an emergency and need to find care in a hurry,” Dr. Ekman says. 

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