When most people think of pregnancy travel rules, the main (and sometimes only) rule that comes to mind initially is the no flying after 36 weeks rule, which is important because nobody wants to go into labor while mid-flight, right? But is that the only reason they don’t want you to fly after 36 weeks (unless there’s a family emergency)? What are some other pregnancy travel rules you should keep in mind the rest of your pregnancy? These recommendations seem intent on not only keeping your baby safe, but you healthy, too.
I talked to Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, a frequent traveler himself as a medical travel blogger in addition to being an OB-GYN and other half of the Twin Doctors for TwinDoctorsTV, to see if he had any tips and tricks for pregnant ladies when it came to traveling, whether it comes by plane, train, or automobile. He came up with six rules of pregnancy travel for pregnant women to go by, and he and his twin brother Idries even came up with an “Airline Policies for Pregnant Travelers” list on their website. “As travel loving OB-GYNs, compiling this list was a labor of love (pun intended),” Abdur-Rahman says.
1. Bring Your Prenatal Records
This is super important in case the unexpected happens — like you need to seek medical care while out of town. Abdur-Rahman encourages all of his pregnant patients to bring their prenatal records along when they travel, because "her prenatal records contain all of the important information that anyone caring for her will need: Important lab results, ultrasound findings, previous physical exam findings, all of these things are contained within the prenatal records. This information can be extremely useful for anyone caring for a pregnant woman, especially if they are not familiar with that woman and her previous lab, ultrasound, and physical exam findings." So be sure to ask your OB-GYN for a copy before you leave for your trip.
2. Eliminate Traveling At 36 Weeks Pregnant
Abdur-Rahman says that traveling past 36 weeks doesn't necessarily put you or the baby in danger, but "beyond 36 weeks of pregnancy, the likelihood that a pregnant woman will go into labor increases dramatically." When you're at 36 weeks, Abdur-Rahman says you're officially "Late Preterm." Which basically means that "by the time a pregnancy has reached its 36th week, it is as close to being a term pregnancy as it can be without it actually being a term pregnancy. As a result, the likelihood of delivery starts to increase dramatically."
And nobody wants you to deliver on an airplane — neither you nor the flight crew. My flight attendant mom had to help deliver a baby on the jetway in the '90s, and let's just say it wasn't a pleasant experience for anyone involved. (How gross and unsanitary would that be?)
3. Check Airline Pregnancy Policy Before Booking
If you're planning on flying, Abdur-Rahman says that every airline has a different policy when it comes to pregnant passengers. "So if a pregnant woman buys a ticket to fly on an airline and then arrives at the airport to find that she is past the point in pregnancy that they will allow her to fly, she will be unable to fly. She will also likely not be refunded the cost of her ticket," he says.
This is why the first rule is so important, and in addition to the first rule — which should also include your due date — Abdur-Rahman advises to have your doctor write a letter to "further verify" your gestational age to eliminate any issues.
4. Prevent Blood Clots
Pregnant women are definitely at a higher risk than non-pregnant people for developing blood clots in her legs and lungs. Abdur-Rahman says this is because a pregnant woman's blood clots more quickly than other people's. "This tendency of the blood of pregnant women to clot more quickly is one of the ways that the body naturally prevents recently delivered pregnant women from bleeding excessively after delivery. However, a downside of this tendency to clot more quickly is that pregnant women are more prone to developing blood clots just in general." Prolonged activity makes blood pool in your veins, whether your pregnant or not. It's especially dangerous in an airplane where the dryness can cause dehydration — which makes your blood thicker and prone to clotting.
So how do you prevent blood clots safely? Abdur-Rahman says you should "aggressively hydrate" prior to and during your travels, consider taking a baby aspirin (81 milligrams) prior to traveling since that thins your blood, get up and walk every two hours or less while traveling (which circulates the blood and prevents it from sitting, pooling, and eventually clotting in the veins), and do ankle rolls while sitting. "Ankle rolls again prevent the blood from sitting, pooling, and eventually clotting in the veins."
5. Wear The Right Clothing & Supportive Gear
While it is definitely a pain to travel (hello dragging luggage and sitting in a confined space for a long time), it's worse for pregnant women. Because everything is worse for pregnant women, am I right?
Pregnant women have to worry about something extra that other travelers don't have to worry about — the hormone "relaxin." And it's not as pleasant as the name may suggest. "Relaxin does just what its name implies. It causes joints throughout the body to relax by causing ligaments and tendons to become lax. This is critical for pregnancy because as the growing uterus and baby enlarge, the pelvis and pelvic joints need to literally expand to accommodate them. They do this by making the pelvic joints lax and stretchable," Abdur-Rahman explains.
"Additionally, during delivery, the pelvis really needs to stretch and expand to allow the baby to navigate and then exit the pelvis. Relaxin and the joint laxity that it causes helps to facilitate this. However, because pregnant women have lax joints throughout the entire body (because relaxin isn't just specific to the pelvic tendons and ligaments, it affects all tendons and ligaments), their joints are more susceptible to injury." Thus, while you're traveling, you could sprain and/or injure something quite easily.
Abdur-Rahman highly suggests pregnant women wear supportive gear like belly bands, "which provide a measure of support for the pelvis, back, and abdomen," along with TED Hose, "which provide support for the ankles, knees and legs while also preventing swelling of the legs and feet."
Also, you can totally dress comfortably. You've earned it. You don't want to feel like you're going to pop out of your pants or feel like a sausage while sitting on a crowded airplane, which is uncomfortable enough as it is. You want to be able to breathe.
6. Prevent Nausea & Dizziness
As we all know, nausea and dizziness are pretty common pregnancy symptoms. And unfortunately, these symptoms can be made worse by traveling, according to Abdur-Rahman. Motion can cause more nausea and dizziness, and that's no matter if you're on a plane, train, automobile, or boat. "To prevent this, pregnant women can load up on the ginger, carbs, Benadryl," and prenatal vitamins that are made specifically for preventing nausea and dizziness, he suggests.
Uh, what? Why haven't I heard about these until now, my third trimester? Abdur-Rahman says, "One that I particularly like and advise my patients to take is a prenatal vitamin called BabyKixx. It can be specifically formulated to contain higher levels of vitamin B6 and ginger extract, and both vitamin B6 and ginger are great at preventing nausea and dizziness. BabyKixx is also delivered in the form of a smoothie rather than a pill, which pregnant women, especially those that have issues with nausea, tend to find more tolerable."
Abdur-Rahman does warn, however, that if you take Benadryl (which causes a lot of people to sleep) you should set an alarm to wake you up every two hours to get up and move around the cabin (or get out of the car) to prevent blood clots.
Traveling while pregnant is sometimes a necessitiy (including those babymoons). Being safe and prepared can go a long way in making sure you enjoy your travels to the fullest.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.