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Happy Trails: Health Tips For Pregnant Travelers

In the Wall Street Journal today there’s an article about traveling while pregnant by Anya Martin. I thought I’d synthesize some of the practical advice Martin gathers here from expects like author and OB/GYN Michelle Hakakha, and add a few tips of my own. It’s so important that pregnant women be able to travel if they want, or have to.

Flying is almost always a fine, if not entirely comfortable, thing to do when you’re pregnant. Here’s how to make the most of it:

  • The second trimester is usually the most comfortable time to travel. Morning sickness is over, huge belly is yet to come. Many airlines restrict pregnant women from flying after 36 weeks. (But a recent article about an in-flight birth, revealed that this restriction is difficult to enforce.) Doctors and midwives tend to discourage women from flying post-term (37 weeks).
  • Apparently radiation from airport security machines is not harmful, but the newer body-scanning machines have sparked concern; ask to be screened by hand or wand if you’re worried. There has been some discussion about the potential affects of cosmic radiation in women who fly constantly throughout pregnancy; some recommend limiting pregnancy flying time to fewer than 200 hours to be cautious.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend pregnant women buy travel health insurance that covers pregnancy and birth complications (some plans don’t).
  • Avoid destinations where medical care is scarce; vaccines are not standardized; malaria or other illnesses like yellow fever are present; and the water supply is not clean. The CDC advises that before traveling women should look up “prenatal-care providers, blood-transfusion safety rules, flu-season dates and tuberculosis risk” at their destination/s.
  • Get an aisle seat, drink lots of water, stretch your legs, walk around, avoid carbonated drinks and gassy foods. (But be reassured that blood clotting on airplanes is not more common among pregnant women than the rest of the population. Since blood clotting can be more common in pregnant women than others, it’s still good to be safe and get your legs moving.)
  • Bring an extra pillow for your lower back or under your tailbone.
  • If you’re prone to queasiness, bring whatever remedies help: wrist bands, ginger, lemon drops.
  • BYO food. Airlines are really skimping on the options lately and pregnant women can be choosy or unable to eat certain things. If the floppy, dry, $12 deli-meat sandwich is skeezing you, you may be out of luck until landing. So bring food you like.

Read more about pregnant travel in The Wall Street Journal.

Photo: Daquella manera/Flickr

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