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Travel and pregnancy

5-minute read

With the proper precautions, and armed with information on when to travel, vaccinations and insurance, most women can travel safely well into their pregnancy.

Wherever you go, find out what healthcare facilities are at your destination in case you require urgent medical attention. It's a good idea to take your medical records with you so you can give doctors the relevant information if necessary. 

Make sure your travel insurance covers you for any eventuality, such as pregnancy-related medical care during labour, premature birth, care of the baby and the cost of changing the date of your return trip if you go into labour.

When to travel

The best time to travel is during the second trimester, when you’re feeling at your best and there is the lowest risk of complications.

Some women prefer not to travel in the first trimester because of nausea and feeling very tired during these early stages. Whether you’re travelling or not, the risk of miscarriage is higher in the first 3 months. While there’s no reason why you can’t travel at this time, if you have any worries discuss them with your midwife or doctor.

During the third trimester you may be feeling too tired and uncomfortable to enjoy travel. It is not recommended for women over 35 weeks pregnant to fly for more than 5 hours.

Travel within Australia by bus, car, train, or boat is usually not a problem as long as you are comfortable. When travelling long distances or overseas, it is wise to consult with your doctor, especially if your pregnancy is considered high-risk.

Air travel

Flying is usually not harmful to you or your baby, but discuss any health issues or pregnancy complications with your midwife or doctor before you fly. 

The likelihood of going into labour is naturally higher after 37 weeks (around 34 weeks if you're carrying twins), and some airlines will not let you fly towards the end of your pregnancy. Check with the airline for their policy on this. 

After week 28 of pregnancy, the airline may ask for a letter from your doctor or midwife confirming your due date, and that you aren't at risk of complications.

Long-distance travel (longer than 5 hours) carries a small risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). If you fly, drink plenty of water and move about regularly – every 30 minutes or so. You can buy a pair of support stockings in the pharmacy over the counter, which will reduce leg swelling.

Vaccinations

Some vaccines (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) are safe and recommended for pregnant women who are travelling to places where they are at risk.

However, the majority of live-virus vaccines (measles, mumps, rubella, chicken-pox) are not recommended for pregnant women as they are not considered safe for the unborn child.

It is safe for pregnant women to have influenza vaccine, which is strongly recommended for all pregnant women, as influenza in pregnancy can be a very serious illness.

You are generally advised to avoid travelling to countries where immunisation is required. However, if you must travel to areas requiring vaccinations, you should discuss this with your doctor, as the risk of catching an infectious disease often outweighs the risk from vaccination.

Pregnant women should avoid countries where there has been an outbreak of Zika virus.

Malaria prevention

Malaria can be more severe in pregnancy and can have serious risks for the baby. Pregnant women can be more susceptible to contracting malaria. Talk to your doctor about the risk of malaria at your travel destination and whether you need anti-malarial medications. Not all anti-malarial medications are safe for pregnant women.

Car travel

Fatigue and dizziness are common during pregnancy so it's important to drink regularly, eat natural, energy-giving foods (such as fruit and nuts) and stop regularly for a break. Keep the air circulating in the car and wear your seatbelt with the cross strap between your breasts and the lap strap across your pelvis under your bump, not across your bump.

Road accidents are among the most common causes of injury in pregnant women. Avoid making long trips on your own and share the driving with your companion. 

Wearing a seatbelt

You need to wear a seatbelt when you are pregnant. Research shows that when you wear a seatbelt there is much less risk of injury to you and your unborn baby.

The law in Australia says that you have to use a seatbelt when you are pregnant – at every stage of your pregnancy.

You may worry that a seatbelt will hurt the baby or you may find it uncomfortable. However, a seatbelt that is worn properly does not put much pressure on your abdomen or your unborn baby.

There is a penalty for not wearing a seatbelt and you can be fined. 

Food and drink

Women are more vulnerable to contracting food and water-borne illnesses, such as stomach upsets and diarrhoea, during pregnancy.

Take extra care with what you eat and drink if you are traveling to places where water and food-borne illnesses are present. Always check if tap water is safe. If in doubt, drink bottled water, use bottled water to brush your teeth, and avoid ice in drinks, salads and uncooked fruit and vegetables.

If you get ill, keep hydrated and continue eating for the health of your baby, even if you may not be hungry. See a doctor as soon as you can because some medicines for treating stomach upsets and diarrhoea aren’t suitable during pregnancy.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020


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Pregnancy and travel - Better Health Channel

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

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This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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