Travelling when you’re pregnant: The definitive guide

What you need to know about travelling while pregnant.

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    Are you pregnant and planning a holiday? With a baby on the way, you may feel now is a great time to travel - after all, this might be the last time for a while that you get the chance to relax, unwind and take a holiday on your own terms.

    Whether you're planning a babymoon, a road trip or an overseas vacation, there are many risks and factors to consider before travelling while you're pregnant, so read on to find out how you and your bump can enjoy a safe and stress-free getaway.

    travelling while pregnant

    Is it safe to travel when pregnant?

    Yes. In most cases, pregnancy is no barrier to travelling. If you’re healthy, haven’t experienced any complications and you’re willing to adjust your holiday plans to suit your soon-to-be newest family member, a babymoon can be a wonderful way to relax and enjoy yourself before your life is turned upside down.

    However, travel during pregnancy isn’t always a good idea. If you’re experiencing complications related to your pregnancy, you may be advised not to travel, and you should be aware of the risks associated with travelling before you book a holiday.

    High-risk pregnancies and when to reconsider travel

    If you’re experiencing complications related to your pregnancy, it’s highly likely that your doctor will advise you not to travel. Potential complications include:

    • Multiple pregnancy
    • Gestational diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Cervical problems
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Pre-eclampsia
    • Hyperemesis gravidarum (excessive vomiting as a result of pregnancy)
    • Prior ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus)
    • Placenta previa (when the placenta is in the lower part of the uterus and covers the cervix) or other abnormalities of the placenta
    • Prior miscarriage
    • Prior premature labour

    In addition, your doctor may recommend against travelling if you’re over the age of 35 and this is your first pregnancy.

    Risks for pregnant women while travelling

    While travel can be relaxing, memorable and fun, it also comes with a number of risks attached. Before hitting the road, make sure you’re aware of what can go wrong, and the complications it could cause for you and your unborn child:

    • Illness. Falling ill on the road is not only unpleasant, it can also cause serious issues for pregnant women. Due to the increased risk of disease, travel to developing countries is not recommended. You should also be very wary of visiting any country where malaria is present, as malaria can cause miscarriage, premature labour and stillbirth.
    • Food poisoning. Some infections can harm your baby or even lead to miscarriage, so be careful what you eat and drink if visiting a country with poor hygiene standards. Avoid undercooked meats and soft cheeses, wash your hands thoroughly, and don’t eat from dodgy street food vendors. If you’re not sure about the quality of the water supply, make sure to only drink bottled water.
    • Medications. Pregnant women need to be wary of taking any medications during pregnancy. Some medications, including some products commonly used to treat traveller’s diarrhoea, are dangerous during pregnancy. Make sure you only take medication recommended by a doctor who is aware of your pregnancy.
    • Stress. Battling crowds, rushing to make it to the airport on time and dealing with unexpected delays can all cause stress on a holiday. Try to just take it easy and go with the flow at all times, and avoid situations or experiences that are likely to cause stress. While piloting a scooter through the manic city streets of Hanoi might have been the perfect holiday experience when you were younger, a lazy beach holiday is a much better idea at this time of your life.
    • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Extended periods without moving, such as on a plane or in a car, can cause clots to form in the deep veins of the leg. DVT can potentially be fatal, and pregnant women have a higher risk of developing it.
    • Overheating. Overheating during pregnancy can cause serious problems, so take care if travelling in hot weather. Take it easy, stay hydrated at all times, avoid the hottest part of the day, wear plenty of sunscreen and avoid overexerting yourself.

    Compare policies with cover for pregnancy

    Where to travel while pregnant

    Before deciding where you should travel, it’s a good idea to look at a list of places not to go. There are a few obvious destinations and experiences you should avoid adding to your itinerary, such as the following:

    • Anything that involves strenuous activity or extreme sports, for example hiking or rock climbing.
    • Any country or destination that has a high travel warning from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
    • Any location where access to high-quality medical facilities is limited. If you develop any pregnancy complications or experience other health problems, you want to be able to access the best possible care.
    • Any destination where there is a high risk of illness or disease.
    • Any destination where you require vaccinations before visiting.
    • Any destination at high altitude.

    Having taken these points into account, there is still a myriad of destinations that are suitable to visit while pregnant. You might like experiencing the sights and sounds of a new city, taking in some fresh air and quiet time at a secluded wilderness retreat, or maybe just putting your feet up beside the pool on a relaxing resort holiday.

    You can go overseas or stay closer to home and holiday within Australia, in case you develop a sudden and unexpected complication. Just make sure to do a little research and careful planning before you go.

    What to pack when you're pregnant

    There are several important things you should consider taking with you on your trip:

    • Pregnancy vitamins
    • Compression socks to reduce the risk of swelling and blood clots during long-distance travel
    • Water to stay hydrated
    • Dry crackers or whatever other food helps you control morning sickness
    • Morning sickness medications or ginger lollies
    • Any medications prescribed by your doctor
    • Heartburn tablets
    • A copy of your prenatal medical records
    • Comfortable shoes
    • A pillow
    • Sunscreen
    • Luggage with wheels
    • Travel insurance

    Pregnancy and vaccinations

    If you’re travelling to specific countries around the world where the risk of illness and disease is high, it’s essential that you get all the necessary vaccinations before embarking on your holiday. However, not all vaccines are safe during pregnancy.

    While the influenza vaccine can be safely given during pregnancy, generally all live virus vaccines should be avoided. Make sure you see your doctor before you book your flights to find out whether a destination is safe for you to visit, and whether you can safely receive any necessary vaccines before travelling.

    Tackling morning sickness while travelling

    Morning sickness is a pretty unpleasant side effect of pregnancy for many women, can be difficult enough to manage at the best of times, let alone when travelling. Here are some simple tips to help you control nausea on your babymoon:

    • Keep emergency supplies with you at all times. From dry crackers to ginger lollies, mints or anything else, you will hopefully have found something you can usually rely on to settle your stomach slightly in an emergency. Keep your favourite food or drink close by at all times just in case.
    • Anti-nausea medications. If natural remedies and regular snacking aren’t enough to help keep your breakfast down, try an over-the-counter medication that’s safe for pregnancy. Just make sure you discuss its use and potential side effects with your doctor first.
    • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is important during pregnancy, especially if you’re losing extra fluids thanks to morning sickness. Make sure you have a bottle of water nearby whenever possible.
    • Avoid strong odours. Yep, we know it’s not always possible when you’re travelling, but try to avoid any potentially stinky situations that could have your stomach doing backflips.
    • Avoid rich foods. Grazing is recommended to help reduce the symptoms of morning sickness. Eat little and often, rather than large meals. Carb-heavy meals can help, but eating anything overly spicy, creamy or high in fat could cause problems.
    • Stay comfortable. Wear loose-fitting clothing and shoes that are made for comfort rather than style.
    • Get some rest. It’s important to stay well rested right throughout pregnancy, but some additional downtime can help make morning sickness a little more manageable.
    • Vomit bags. Hopefully you’ll be able to keep morning sickness to a minimum, but keeping a decent supply of ziplock bags handy is always a good idea.

    Travel tips for each trimester of pregnancy

    Here are some tips to help ensure your journey is comfortable and safe during each trimester:

    Travel tips for the first trimester

    Travel during the first trimester is usually perfectly safe, but there’s still plenty you can do to ensure a safe and stress-free trip:

    • Visit your doctor. Before you book any flights or accommodation, ask your doctor whether it’s safe for you to travel. Your doctor can also advise you about any destinations that are/aren’t safe to visit, what activities and foods you should avoid, and provide a range of other helpful travel tips.
    • Manage morning sickness. The first trimester is usually when morning sickness is at its peak, so check out the tips above to learn how to stay on top of morning sickness when travelling.
    • Rest up and relax. The early stages of pregnancy can be quite exhausting, especially if you’re struggling with morning sickness, so take it easy and don’t push yourself too hard. Try to avoid stress and find some time to put your feet up and relax.

    Travel tips for the second trimester

    The second trimester is generally considered the best time to travel. You’re hopefully past the worst of your morning sickness, but you haven’t reached the later stages of pregnancy when you may be getting increasingly uncomfortable and quickly fatigued.

    Remember the following tips for a more relaxing and enjoyable travel experience during your second trimester:

    • Check your travel insurance. Travel insurers impose a maximum limit on gestation as part of their terms and conditions, and if you’re past a specified limit you won't be able to take out any cover. Make sure you read the product disclosure statement to check whether you will be covered, before you pay for any insurance .
    • Doctor’s note. Once you reach the 28 weeks, before allowing you to fly many airlines require you to carry a note from your doctor that confirms the details of your pregnancy and any related complications. Check with your airline ahead of time so you can make the necessary arrangements.
    • Slow down. Now is not the time to be planning an itinerary stacked with activities, tours and experiences. Don’t try and pack too much into your holiday. Make time to relax and take things easy.
    • Stay comfortable. Do whatever you can to maximise comfort during your trip. Upgrade your airline tickets to better seats, request a particular seat, take taxis instead of walking, and put your feet up whenever you get the chance.
    • Fly at the front. Did you know the front end of a plane is more spacious and less turbulent than the seats in the rear? Request a seat towards the front in advance to increase your comfort levels on a long flight.
    • Plan ahead. You’re probably noticing that your bladder seems to fill up faster all the time, so planning toilet stops is a good idea. When you find a good, clean bathroom on the road, even if you’re not busting, use it!

    Travel tips for the third trimester

    Travelling in the third trimester can be a little more challenging, but it’s still entirely possible. Just make sure you keep the following tips in mind:

    • Check your travel insurance. By this stage of your pregnancy, many insurers won’t be willing to provide cover. Some insurers list the maximum travel cut-off as 26 weeks while others extend it to 32 weeks, so check with your insurer to find out whether any cover is available.
    • Flight and cruise restrictions. Most airlines won’t allow you to fly for four hours or more once you reach 36 weeks gestation, while cruise companies can impose even earlier cut-off times. Check with your carrier before booking to determine how far along in your pregnancy you can be and still be permitted to travel.
    • Rest up. Fatigue is a common challenge during the third trimester so you will need to manage your energy levels accordingly. Pace yourself and make sure you take plenty of time to relax whenever you get the chance.
    • Plan your bathroom breaks. You may find you need to go to the toilet a whole lot more during the third trimester, so try to plan things so you always have easy access to clean facilities during your travels.
    • Get rock-star treatment. At this stage of your pregnancy you need an extra level of care, so it’s worth phoning ahead to your airline to see what sort of special treatment is available. This could include priority seating, assistance boarding your flight, and hot towels and extra pillows on long-haul flights.

    Can you fly when pregnant?

    Definitely! Flying while pregnant can be safe but there are some conditions where you may want to avoid flying if possible.

    Check icon Image: Supplied

    You are in the second trimester (13-27 weeks) and are not experiencing any complications

    You have consulted a certified medical practitioner and have been approved to fly

    Your insurer has agreed to cover you if flying overseas (read your policy carefully)

    Your airline has agreed to carry you (airlines have different policies regarding pregnancy)

    Your pregnancy is not classed as high risk

    You are not travelling to a country where vaccinations are required that could be dangerous to your baby (influenza vaccine is the exception)

    You are not over 35 years of age and pregnant for the first time

    Cross icon Image: Supplied

    You are in the last six weeks of your pregnancy (flying could trigger premature labour)

    You are travelling to a destination where limited medical facilities are available (i.e. a third world country)

    Your pregnancy is high risk (i.e. you are experiencing cervical problems, vaginal bleeding, a multiple pregnancy, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, abnormalities of the placenta, or have had a prior miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or premature labour)

    You are flying long distance and have had a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) in the past

    Tips for flying, driving or cruising while you're pregnant

    Tips for flying while pregnant

    If you are taking to the skies to get to your dream pregnancy holiday destination, use these tips to help your flights go as smoothly as possible:

    • See your doctor. Before boarding a plane or even booking tickets, ask your doctor whether it’s safe for you to fly. They will be able to discuss the potential risks and offer advice on how you can maximise comfort on long flights.
    • Be aware of airline restrictions. If you’re over 36 weeks pregnant most airlines won’t allow you to board flights longer than four hours. In fact, once you reach 28 weeks gestation, you’ll usually be required to present a letter from your doctor stating you are fit to fly before being allowed to board.
    • Know how to wear your seatbelt. Make sure to fasten your seatbelt below your belly and across the thighs. Cabin crew can provide a seatbelt extender if necessary.
    • Stock up on sick bags. Struggling with morning sickness? Make sure you have an ample supply of sick bags handy in case you need them.
    • Choose the best seat. The ride is generally smoother near the front of the plane, and an aisle seat makes it easier to access the toilets. Try for a seat close to the toilets, but not so close that you smell unpleasant odours that could turn your stomach.
    • Prepare a flight kit. If you’re battling nausea, make sure you have access to whatever you need to settle your stomach. Whether it's ginger tablets or peppermint chews, dry crackers or a cold bottle of water, keep your favourite tonic handy at all times.
    • Stretch and keep moving. Stretch your legs and keep them moving regularly while seated. If it’s safe to do so, get up and go for a walk every half an hour. You may also want to consider wearing compression stockings.
    • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the flight so you don’t become dehydrated.

    Tips for driving while pregnant

    Planning a road trip? Driving is a great solution if you want to stay a little closer to home or if you’re not allowed to fly or cruise. Keep the following tips in mind to help you stay safe and comfortable:

    • Stop frequently. There’s every chance you’ll need to stop regularly to go to the toilet, so take advantage of these opportunities to stretch your legs.
    • Know how to wear your seatbelt. Make sure your seatbelt doesn’t affect your bump. Put the lap sash below your belly and the shoulder sash above it.
    • Airbags. In case of a crash, if you’re sitting in the front passenger seat it’s a good idea to move your seat back as far as possible to reduce the impact of the airbag. If you’re driving, sit as far back from the wheel as you can while still being able to drive safely and without discomfort.
    • If you’re in an accident. If you’re involved in a collision, even a minor one, book an appointment with your doctor to make sure everything is okay.
    • Always carry your phone. Make sure you always take your phone with you when travelling in case you break down or need emergency assistance.
    • Battling morning sickness. There are several things you can do to keep nausea to a minimum. Sit in the front seat rather than the back, keep the windows down to keep fresh air flowing, and take regular breaks.
    • Take a pillow. A favourite pillow can greatly increase your comfort level during long days on the road.

    Tips for cruising while pregnant

    A relaxing cruise holiday can be the perfect way to put your feet up before little bub arrives. Here are some tips to remember about cruising while pregnant:

    • Travel cut-offs. Cruise lines often have even tighter restrictions than airlines regarding pregnancy. Many companies, including P&O Cruises and Carnival, will only accept pregnant passengers who will be less than 24 weeks at the end of their cruise. Others have a slightly later cut-off date of 27 weeks, while some specialty river cruises may allow you to board throughout your third trimester as long as you have a doctor’s certificate. Check your cruise company’s fine print before booking.
    • Doctor’s letter. Most cruise liners require any pregnant woman, no matter how far along, to provide a letter from their doctor or midwife stating that mother and baby are healthy, fit to travel and not experiencing any complications. This usually needs to be submitted a certain period in advance of boarding, often 60 days ahead.
    • Medical care on board. Larger cruise liners generally offer onboard medical centres and doctors, with facilities capable of handling routine care and the odd emergency. Of course, they don’t have the means necessary for critical antenatal, childbirth or newborn care, so you will be evacuated to the nearest medical facility on shore if necessary. This can be expensive, which is why cruise travel insurance is essential.
    • Cruise travel insurance. Did you know that most run-of-the-mill travel insurance policies don’t cover cruising? It's usually available as an extra-cost option, but it’s an essential expense to ensure that you are covered for emergency medical evacuation, as well as other useful benefits such as cover for cabin confinement or missed shore excursions.
    • Disease. Communicable diseases are notorious for spreading quickly in the crowded and confined spaces of cruise ships. A bout of gastro is unpleasant at the best of times, but can be especially dangerous to pregnant women. Make sure you regularly wash your hands and always follow good hygiene practices.
    • Review your itinerary. Check your cruise itinerary for a list of the destinations you will be visiting. Are all those destinations safe for someone who is pregnant? Is there an increased risk of illness or disease? For example, are you stopping at a port where the Zika virus has been found? Check with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for any health and safety warnings that may be in place.
    • Shore excursions. Some shore excursions may be automatically off-limits due to your pregnancy, but make sure you’re sensible when choosing which activities to participate in. For example, parasailing or scuba diving while pregnant is not recommended.
    • Seasickness. Even if you don’t usually get seasick, normal rules don’t apply when you’re pregnant, especially if you’re already battling morning sickness. Make sure you have any suitable remedies on hand to help you cope with nausea, and remember that lower-level cabins towards the ship’s centre tend to offer the smoothest sailing.

    Pregnancy and travel insurance

    If you’re pregnant and planning a holiday, one of the most important questions on your mind will be “Can I get travel insurance while pregnant?”. The good news is that, yes, you can take out travel insurance for pregnancy.

    However, keep in mind that there are a few important terms and conditions attached to the cover:

    • You can only take out cover up to a certain gestation limit. Most insurers will only cover you if you’re less than 26 weeks along, but others extend this limit to 32 weeks.
    • You will not be covered if you travel against medical advice.
    • Many insurers won't cover you if you have developed any complications associated with your pregnancy. However, some providers will agree to cover you if you have completed a medical assessment.
    • Many insurers only cover single pregnancies, not multiple pregnancies.
    • Pregnancies resulting from assisted reproductive programs such as IVF commonly are not covered.
    • Most policies do not cover the cost of childbirth overseas, so you could be left with extensive medical costs if your baby decides to arrive early.

    If you satisfy all the relevant terms and conditions and can find a suitable policy, travel insurance can provide crucial financial protection for your trip. It can cover everything from trip cancellations to luggage and personal belongings, travel delay and overseas medical expenses, so check out our guide to travel insurance for pregnancy to help you find the right cover for your journey.

    Search for travel insurance with pregnancy cover

    Flying when pregnant: Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin

    Carriers have different policies regarding pregnancy and flying and you will need to find out whether your airline will carry you while pregnant and what conditions must be met. The following is a summary of how the three main Australian carriers view pregnancy and flying:

    Qantas and Jetstar

    • After 28 weeks, you will need a certificate or letter from your medical practitioner confirming the pregnancy is routine and there are no complications
    • You can travel up to the end of the 36th week (single birth, flights 4 hours or more) and up to the end of the 32nd week (multiple birth, flights 4 hours or more)
    • You can travel up to the end of the 40th week (single birth, flights less than 4 hours) and up to the end of the 36nd week (multiple birth, flights less than 4 hours)
    • Medical clearance is required if you are having complications with your pregnancy
    • Medical clearance is required if you are travelling within 7 days of your delivery date

    Virgin Australia

    • If you are 28 weeks pregnant or more, you will need a letter from your medical practitioner stating you are fit to fly
    • If you are experiencing complications, you will need a medical clearance in order to travel
    • If you are more than 36 weeks pregnant (single birth, flights over 4 hours) or more than 32 weeks pregnant (multiple birth, flights over 4 hours), you will not be accepted for travel
    • If you are more than 38 weeks pregnant (single birth, flights under 4 hours) or more than 36 weeks pregnant (multiple birth, flights under 4 hours), you will not be accepted for travel
    • If you are within 48 hours of your expected delivery time, you will not be accepted for travel

    More tips for travelling when pregnant

    Pregnant and planning a 'babymoon' before your life is turned upside down by the new arrival? Keep the following tips in mind to help you stay safe when travelling while pregnant:

    Travel during the second trimester.
    Generally speaking, the safest time to travel during pregnancy is in the second trimester, provided that you don't have any complications. This is the period when you're hopefully past the worst of your morning sickness and when most travel insurers will still provide cover.

    Check with your doctor.
    Before booking anything, check with your doctor to make sure it's safe for you to travel. Even if you've already booked, it's still a good idea to make a doctor's appointment to check whether there's anything you should avoid or any advice you should follow during your journey.

    Be careful with medications
    Be extremely wary of using any medications while pregnant, including those used to treat traveller's diarrhoea. Only use medications prescribed by your doctor who is fully aware of your pregnancy.

    Choose your destination accordingly.
    A secluded desert island in the middle of nowhere might seem like a romantic holiday spot, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare if you need urgent medical help. At the same time, if you plan on travelling to a developing nation you'll need vaccinations from your doctor, but most vaccinations can be dangerous to unborn babies. With this in mind, make sure any destination you choose is suitable for you and your bump.

    Take it easy.
    If you're known for your keen sense of adventure, make sure you stay sensible on your holiday. Scuba diving, rock climbing and bungee jumping might all be normal holiday activities for you, but perhaps now is the time to be cautious. Ask your doctor for recommendations of activities you should and shouldn't do.

    Food poisoning.
    Take all reasonable steps to avoid food poisoning and other infections that may be harmful to your baby. Avoid street food, undercooked meats and any other eateries that look unhygienic, and drink bottled water if the quality of the local water supply is questionable.

    Deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
    Extended periods of not moving during long-distance travel can cause DVT, a condition which can potentially be very serious. Pregnant women have an increased risk of DVT in certain circumstances, so discuss travel plans with your doctor. Staying moving, doing frequent leg exercises and avoiding dehydration during long-distance travel can all help reduce your risk of DVT.

    Picture: Shutterstock

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