Monday 14 October 2019

How to travel safely when you're pregnant

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet the public at Sydney Opera House on October 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet the public at Sydney Opera House on October 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia

Maria Lally

In the early weeks of her pregnancy with Prince George, the Duchess of Cambridge had to hurriedly announce the news after she was hospitalised with hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness that left her bed-bound for weeks.

Compare that to her new sister-in-law the Duchess of Sussex, who announced her first pregnancy yesterday after stepping off a long haul London to Sydney flight. Along with her new husband Prince Harry, Meghan is due to carry out 76 engagements as part of a 16-day Royal tour of Australia.

“It just goes to show that all pregnancies are different,” says UK charity Tommy’s midwife Amanda Milne. “So while some pregnant women will be absolutely fine doing a long haul flight, or taking lots of holidays, others won’t feel up to it. By the looks of Meghan, she’s clearly feeling happy and well in her pregnancy and at Tommy’s we always tell pregnant women they can and should travel as much as they wish.

"In most cases, when a pregnancy is healthy and uncomplicated, there are no travel restrictions up until around 36 weeks, when most airlines stop you from flying. If you’re pregnant with twins, or multiples, then you won’t be allowed to fly after 32 weeks because multiple births tend to be premature. However, all airlines have their own limits so check their website before you travel. And always tell your travel insurer you’re pregnant in case you need to be treated while you’re away. For the same reason, take your pregnancy notes with you.

“It’s also worth noting if you have a very large bump but you’re under 36 weeks, an airline may still decline to fly you so, again, it’s worth having your notes with you as proof. While flying, pregnant women should wear compression socks, potter around and stretch regularly to exercise their calves, and drink plenty of water.

“In term of pre-travel vaccinations, it’s not ideal to have live vaccinations when you’re pregnant so avoid going to countries where you need vaccinations. However, what we say at Tommy’s is that if you want or have to go to one of these countries, the risks of going un-vaccinated are greater than the vaccination itself.”

In terms of food while she’s away, midwife Lesley Gilchrist, who is a speaker at the upcoming The Baby Show, says: “Early pregnancy can be a time of nausea for some women. If Meghan is suffering, taking ginger infused products such as tea, crystalised ginger, fresh raw ginger or ginger biscuits can help. Some women also find the aroma of peppermint helps. Meghan should snack little and often, preferably on bland foods such as crackers, nuts and seeds, and make sure she is always hydrated because dehydration may make sickness worse.

“Local delicacies may need to be avoided, especially if Meghan’s team doesn’t know which ingredients are in it or how it has been prepared. She will need to make sure that meat is well cooked, her dairy products are pasteurised, and her eggs are thoroughly cooked.” Amanda adds that pregnant travellers should make sure they drink plenty of water from a clean, reliable source while they’re away by checking whether it’s safe to drink the local tap water and to stock up on bottled water.

Of the 16-day tour, Lesley says: “Meghan should plan additional rests in between engagements, especially since she’s in a different time zone, as jet lag will worsen the symptoms of nausea and tiredness.”

“First and foremost, people should remember she’s pregnant and not sick,” says Milli Hill, author of The Positive Birth Book. “So she can continue doing exactly as she was before with a little more self-care in mind. Every pregnancy is different but if she is suffering from morning sickness she shouldn’t be afraid to turn down any engagements if she is struggling. Early pregnancy can make you feel more tired than usual so with the busy schedule Harry and Meghan have ahead of them it’s important for Meghan to get plenty of sleep, eat well, rest when she needs to and exercise as much as feels right for her. 

"But it’s important to remember too there are many women in the workplace out there in the early stages of pregnancy, and they are managing just fine. Women are tough, and Meghan is clearly no exception.”

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