Many women travel overseas while they're pregnant without any problem. But what if something goes wrong? Here are some things to think about so you're able to get help when you're overseas.
How can I cover unforeseen costs?
It's not normally recommended to travel to very remote areas or to developing countries while you're pregnant — if you do, make sure your travel insurance will cover any medical care you might need, as well as any emergency evacuation expenses.
Different travel insurance products offer different levels of pregnancy cover. Most will cover pregnancy up to 26 to 30 weeks, and some will go up to 32 weeks. After 33 weeks you can't claim on travel insurance for normal pregnancy or childbirth, although some pregnancy-related medical conditions may be covered.
Some policies also cover newborns — which could be important if your baby decides to come early while you're overseas. Check whether there are any exclusions in your policy, such as complications due to fertility treatment or a multiple birth.
Australia has reciprocal healthcare agreements with 11 countries, as of April 2021. This means you will be covered for emergency care in these countries, or for care that can't wait until you get home. You may need to pay for some medicines.
The countries that have these reciprocal healthcare agreements with Australia are Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Different countries offer different levels of care. You can check for more up-to-date information on the Department of Human Services website before you go.
Even if you are going to a country that has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia, you should also take out travel insurance if you're pregnant.
What should I bring with me?
As well as bringing your passport and tickets, you’ll need to plan your packing a little more carefully if you’re pregnant.
Before you go, ask your doctor about which medicines are safe to take with you. For example, ask about whether you can take anything to provide relief if you feel nauseous or have diarrhoea. If you are travelling by plane, also ask your doctor about medicines to avoid blood clots.
If you are flying after 28 weeks of pregnancy, most airlines will need you to have a medical certificate. This is a letter from a doctor or registered midwife giving information about your pregnancy such as your estimated due date, whether there are complications, and whether it is a multiple pregnancy. The airline may request to see the medical certificate when you check in and even during the flight.
It’s important to take photocopies of your travel documents, prescriptions and insurance policies, and to keep these somewhere safe.
Staying safe while overseas
It’s very dangerous to drink contaminated water while you’re pregnant, so bottled water is best. Iodine purification is not recommended because it can affect your baby’s thyroid gland. Pack lots of hand sanitiser so you can make sure your hands are always clean before you eat or drink.
You should take proper precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes if you are in a mosquito area. Insect repellent containing DEET is fine after the first trimester, but use a spray rather than a roll-on. Also, take long-sleeved clothes for after dark and a mosquito net for your bed.
What happens if you give birth overseas?
If you happen to have your baby while you are overseas, there are several things you will need to consider.
Having a baby in a foreign country does not automatically mean your baby is a citizen of that country, even though that country will most likely issue a birth certificate.
Only the United States, Canada and most South American countries have what is known as 'birthright citizenship'. Citizenship of Australia, as well as of most European and Asian countries, is based on the citizenship of the parents.
Your baby will need an interim passport so you can return to Australia. You will need to contact the Australian embassy or consulate in the country to help organise this.
When you return to Australia, even if you and your partner are both Australian citizens, this does not automatically make your baby an Australian citizen. You will have to apply for 'citizenship by descent'.
Remember that most travel insurance policies will not cover the costs of your baby, so speak to your insurance provider before you travel.
Where should I go for help?
If you need medical help while you're overseas, the first step is to contact your travel insurer. Most insurers offer 24-hour assistance lines that will help you.
If it's an emergency, contact the local ambulance service. You can find the number in the travel advisory for that country on the Smartraveller website. Smartraveller also provides advice on where to go for help in that country.
If you are in serious trouble and can’t get help anywhere else, you should contact the Australian embassy or consulate. This will nearly always be in the capital, although there may be consulates in the larger cities. The 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra can also be contacted for assistance from anywhere in the world on +61 2 6261 3305 (or on 1300 555 135 if in Australia).
How do I handle the language barrier?
Consider taking a phrase book with you, using the Google Translate phone app, and obtaining translations about common pregnancy problems or complications before you go. An Australian embassy or consulate can also advise you on where to find local accredited translators in an emergency.
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Last reviewed: April 2021