Bump on board: How to travel and fly safely while pregnant
There's no reason why you can't enjoy trips away when you're pregnant, provided you take some precautionary measures.
Summertime and the living is easy - or it would be if you could relax and take the weight off your burgeoning baby bump.
There is nothing as energy-boosting as a holiday and when you are heavily pregnant the idea of getting away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life is very tempting. But how safe is it to fly? Will you be comfortable on a long journey? What sort of food should you avoid? Do you have to stay out of the sun and is it advisable to go swimming in the sea?
Everyone wants the best for their baby and there are safeguards you can take to ensure your internal passenger is happy with your holiday choices. Midwife and Gentlebirth founder, Tracy Donegan says expectant mums should heed a couple of precautions before embarking on their well-earned vacation.
"According to the RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) if you've had an uncomplicated single pregnancy, you can fly up to 37 weeks pregnant," she says. "With twins it's suggested you don't fly later than 32 weeks as it's more common for these mums to give birth early. Most expectant mums can fly safely but if you have any heart or lung conditions, severe anaemia or sickle-cell disease or have had recent vaginal bleeding, then flying is not recommended."
The childbirth expert says a few simple measures can ensure your journey is as hassle-free as possible. "Before you fly make sure your travel insurance is up to date and pack your pregnancy notes and medication in your carry-on luggage. Avoid travelling to countries which require vaccination and locations either at high altitudes over 4,000m or with poor access to clean water, sanitation and health services."
Once you have arrived at your destination, it's tempting to just flop on a sunbed but Donegan says you still need to protect your bump. "Use a good sunscreen and stay out of the sun from 10-3pm," she advises. "The skin on your bump can feel more sensitive so be sure to moisturise well and apply sunscreen frequently. Your body temperature will be higher than normal so it's easy to overdo it. Take advantage of the pool and if going in to the ocean, swim with your partner in designated safe swimming areas. Mosquitoes are especially fond of expectant mums so pack a good insect repellent."
Also it would be a shame to be in an exotic destination and not to enjoy the local foods. So follow these tips:
l Drink bottled water and ensure all foods are well cooked.
l Many cured meats are uncooked so there is a risk that they contain toxoplasmosis-causing parasites. l Avoid foods containing shellfish or raw and undercooked eggs. Soft blue cheese is not recommended but if made with pasteurised milk, you can have cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, halloumi and goat cheese.
Margaret Hanahoe, Assistant Directory of Midwifery at the National Maternity Hospital, agrees that going on holiday while pregnant is perfectly safe as long as you take time to prepare in advance.
"Travel is usually fine in a normal pregnancy and the best time is during the second trimester when you are usually feeling at your best," she says. "However, even if your pregnancy is going well, your carer may advise against travelling to destinations at high altitude, or that pose other major health risks.
"Be prepared by getting details of local doctors and the nearest maternity facilities. Check that your insurance policy covers you while pregnant. And don't forget your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) - this is not an alternative to travel insurance but gets you free or reduced-cost health care in Europe."
Hanahoe says the most important advice for pregnant women who are travelling by plane is to drink plenty of fluids and move about as often as possible.
"You should keep well hydrated with water and walk around the cabin every half hour," she advises. "And while you may experience problems with oedema (swelling), the main concern about flights over four hours is the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A DVT is a blood clot that forms in your leg or pelvis. If it travels to your lungs it can be life-threatening - when you are pregnant and for up to six weeks after the birth of your baby, your risks of developing a DVT are higher."
According to the latest guidelines from RCOG, to minimise the risk of a DVT on a medium or a long-haul flight, you should: l Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes.
l Try to get an aisle seat and take regular walks around the plane.
l Do in-seat exercises every 30 minutes - the airline should give you information on these.
l Drink water at regular intervals.
l Cut down on fizzy or caffeinated drinks.
l Wear graduated elastic compression stockings.
Hanahoe also advises how to travel comfortably and safely when travelling for long distances by car. "A normal three-point seatbelt should be worn with the cross strap lying between the breasts," she says. "The lap belt should be placed beneath the bump of the baby and across the thighs. You can get special additions to make wearing a safety belt more comfortable."