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Pregnancy and travel

Prenatal care - travel

Most of the time, traveling while you are pregnant can be safe and enjoyable. However, it is still a good idea to talk to your health care provider before you plan your trip. Also, check with the CDC for any current pregnancy and travel advisories.

Information

Most of the time, it is fine to travel while pregnant. As long as you are comfortable and safe, you should be able to travel. It is still a good idea to talk to your provider if you are planning a trip.

When you travel, you should:

  • Eat as you normally do.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that isn't tight.
  • Take crackers and juice with you to avoid nausea.
  • Bring a copy of your prenatal care records with you.
  • Get up and walk every hour. It will help your circulation and keep swelling down. Being inactive for long periods of time and being pregnant both increase your risk for blood clots in your legs and lungs. To lower your risk, drink plenty of fluids and move around often.

Get medical care right away if you have:

  • Chest pain
  • Leg or calf pain or swelling, especially in just one leg
  • Shortness of breath

Do not take over-the-counter medicines or any non-prescribed medicines without talking to your provider. This includes medicine for motion sickness or bowel problems.

Travel by Land

When traveling by land:

  • You should be on the road no more than 5 to 6 hours a day.
  • Always wear your seatbelt. Place the lap belt under your belly and across your hips so that it fits snugly and comfortably. Put the shoulder strap between your breasts and across your shoulder.
  • Always wear the lap shoulder seat belt strap when traveling while pregnant.
  • If you have an accident, check with your provider to see if you and your baby are fine. Unless you have a serious injury in an accident, your baby will likely not be harmed. Still, check with your provider to be on the safe side.
  • While on the road, take breaks often and walk around. This will help your circulation and can prevent blood clots.

Travel by Air

When traveling by air:

  • In the United States, pregnant women are allowed to fly during the first 36 weeks of their pregnancy.
  • Book an aisle seat to make it easier to walk around and get to the bathroom.
  • Wear layers of clothing so you can change as needed for comfort.
  • Get up and walk at least once an hour. This will help your circulation and can prevent blood clots.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Women with health problems may need extra oxygen when flying. Talk to your provider before you travel to see if you will need extra oxygen.

Travel by Sea

When traveling by sea:

  • If you have never been on a cruise, it may not be the best time to go.
  • Travel by sea may cause motion sickness or nausea. It may feel worse than normal if you are pregnant.
  • If you do decide to go on a cruise, find out what kind of medical care will be on the ship. Also ask how the cruise ship responds to medical emergencies.

Foreign Travel

Talk to your provider if you are planning a trip out of the country. Plan ahead to allow time for any shots or medicines you may need. When you travel, take a copy of your prenatal care record with you.

High Altitudes

Traveling to high altitudes, like the mountains, may cause problems during pregnancy. Higher altitudes have lower air pressures and less oxygen. Your body and the baby will have to adjust. It is best for all pregnant women who live at low altitudes to avoid traveling over 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) during pregnancy.

If you live at a high altitude, it is safe for you to stay there. Your pregnancy will adapt to the lower oxygen levels.

References

Anderson S. Advice for women travelers. In: Sanford CA, Pottinger PS, Jong EC, eds. The Travel and Tropical Medicine Manual. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 14.

Bernstein HB, Lee M-J. Maternal and perinatal infection in pregnancy. In: Landon MB, Galan HL, Jauniaux ERM, et al, eds. Gabbe's Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 57.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Pregnant women. www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/protect-yourself.html. Updated April 23, 2020. Accessed January 26, 2021.

Mackell SM, Borwein S. The pregnant and breastfeeding traveler. In: Keystone JS, Kozarsky PE, Connor BA, Nothdurft HD, Mendelson M, Leder, K, eds. Travel Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 22.

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Review Date: 10/5/2020

Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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