Travel during pregnancy - your questions answered

If you're planning to travel during pregnancy, you’re probably wondering if it is safe. We spoke to a GP to get the lowdown.

Many women travel during pregnancy, whether for work or for pleasure, but there are a few things to consider when planning a trip. We spoke to Dr Tim Ross, National Medical Director at Bupa, about some tips to help you plan for a fun and safe trip.

Flying and pregnancy

A common question is, “Can I fly while I’m pregnant?” The general recommendation is to plan any flights for the second trimester (between 13 and 24 weeks) if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy. Despite this, many women fly early in a pregnancy either without knowing they’re pregnant or because the trip was already booked, which is generally fine.

Dr Ross advises that some key issues to consider when flying in the first trimester are exhaustion and morning sickness, both of which can make travel more difficult. As a precaution, it’s important to ensure you have both medical and personal support (or know where to find them) at your destination should you need them. 

If you’re travelling after the 28-week mark, you’re likely to be carrying more weight than normal, which can make flying while pregnant uncomfortable and tiring. As you approach your due date the risk of some other complications increases too. 

Airline policies on flying during pregnancy

In Australia, if you’re flying after 28 weeks gestation you’ll be expected to carry a letter from your doctor certifying that you’re fit to travel. 

For flights longer than four hours, most airlines won’t allow you to travel after 36 weeks for a routine single pregnancy or after 32 weeks for multiple babies.

Some airlines will allow you to fly up until the start of your 40th week of pregnancy as long as the flight is four hours or shorter, the pregnancy has no complications and you’re not carrying multiple babies. 

It’s important however, to check with the individual airline you're flying with for their policy on this. 

> Travelling soon? Learn more about Bupa Travel Insurance

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) risk 

For flights less than four hours, no special precautions are usually needed for pregnant women. Longer flights increase your risk of getting blood clots in the deep veins of your legs or pelvis (deep vein thrombosis) if you’re expecting. These can be life-threatening if the clot travels to your lungs. 

So if you’re flying long-haul (or travelling by bus or train), it’s recommended that you take precautions such as:

  • Wearing compression stockings (the ones especially designed for pregnant women)
  • Remaining hydrated
  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • Walking in the aisle
  • Doing leg exercises when you’re seated. 
Couple walking along beach

Places to avoid travelling to while pregnant

Pregnancy is generally not the time for intrepid travel, Dr Ross suggests avoiding going anywhere too remote, because it’s important to have access to reliable medical help if you need it. 

And try not to travel to areas affected by malaria, which can be dangerous for your unborn child. If you have to travel to a region with malaria, consult your doctor on which anti-malarial medication to take as some are not safe for pregnant women. And don’t forget the usual precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, such as wearing long-sleeved tops and full-length trousers.

It’s also best to avoid travelling to countries affected by the Zika virus as you risk serious defects to your baby if you become infected.

Travel vaccinations during pregnancy

If you require vaccinations for the country you are visiting, it’s best to get them before you become pregnant. Once pregnant, the general advice is to avoid travelling to countries that require you to have vaccinations. 

Dr Ross advises that you consult your doctor, as some vaccines such as yellow fever are not recommended for pregnant women. However, if your risk of being exposed to yellow fever is high where you are travelling, it may be better to have to the vaccine rather than travel unprotected. Your doctor can advise you on what’s best for you and your unborn baby.

Travel insurance

Dr Ross also recommends that you have appropriate medical travel insurance that covers pregnancy-related issues so you’re supported should anything unforeseen happen.
Research your destination and requirements thoroughly if you’re going to travel during pregnancy was Dr Ross’ final advice.
“You really want to make sure you’re flying to fairly familiar surroundings where you don’t need any vaccinations; you know what the medical resources are; and where you can get medical assistance if you run into trouble.”

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Bupa Travel Insurance is distributed by Bupa HI Pty Ltd ABN 81 000 057 590 an authorised representative of the issuer, Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 AFSL 227681. Any advice is general only and does not take into account your personal circumstances. Consider the  Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to see if this product is right for you.

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