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Traveling During Pregnancy

Hey Mom!

Don't shy away from seat belts in your car now that you are pregnant. The belt won't constrict the fetus or hurt it upon impact. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "Studies have shown that in nearly 100 percent of car crashes, the fetus recovers quickly from any pressure the seat belt exerts and suffers no lasting injuries." Put the safety belt under your abdomen and position the shoulder harness between your breasts.

Because life does go on during pregnancy you might soon find yourself making plans for a vacation or business trip and worrying about its effect on your fetus. In most healthy pregnancies, traveling isn't a problem during this time; in fact, if this is your first child this is a great time to get away and savor the time alone with your partner. But there are a few precautions and considerations you should think about before you take off.

Always check your travel plans with your doctor early in the planning stage. If there is any medical reason your trip should be canceled, postponed, or shortened, you'll want to know before you buy tickets or schedule time off from work. Your doctor might also have some tips or advice unique to your pregnancy that will make your trip more comfortable and safe.

Consider the timing of your trip. The best travel time for pregnant women is usually in the second trimester. This is the time you have the most energy and are relatively free from the fatigue and morning sickness of the first trimester and the discomforts of the last trimester (such as backaches, hemorrhoids, and heartburn). Fears of miscarriage and premature birth are also less common during this middle period.

If you are traveling for an extended period in the last three months of your pregnancy, take extra precautions to keep yourself and your baby safe and healthy:

Air Travel

If you're traveling by plane, think ahead for your own comfort and safety. Although plane travel is generally safe during pregnancy, there are certain precautions you should think about. In fact, some airlines have restrictions on pregnant travelers. To avoid a delivery at 33,000 feet or an emergency landing, some will not carry women past their 36th week. This is important to keep in mind for the return trip. You might get out of your hometown at Week 30, but if you're planning to return very close to your due date, you might have trouble getting permission to board for the return trip.

As for the plane ride itself, pamper yourself:

Hey Mom!

When you travel, be sure to pack your prenatal vitamins and quick-energy snacks.

Because x-rays are dangerous to a developing fetus, many pregnant women are worried about passing through the airport x-ray machines used for security. Although x-rays are used to examine carry-on luggage that gets sent down the transport belt, the metal detector you walk through is harmless!

The real danger from radiation comes from flying itself. Flying in an airplane exposes you to high-energy cosmic radiation given off by the stars and sun. The amount of radiation depends on your location and altitude. The nearer the North or South Pole you fly and the higher you fly, the greater the level of radiation. Frequent flyers, flight attendants, and pregnant women have been warned that long, high-altitude flights over polar regions can expose them to more radiation than the federal government currently recommends. If you're taking a short domestic flight to visit your mother, don't worry at all. But if you're doing extensive, long-range flying, you should talk to your doctor about the levels of radiation you might be exposed to.

Foreign Travel

Traveling to a foreign country is always exciting and packed with adventure. But traveling abroad can also expose you to diseases that your immune system (which is weakened during pregnancy) might have a hard time fighting off. Proper immunizations will protect you from most problems; ideally you should get these vaccines several months before you become pregnant. But if you must be immunized now, talk to your doctor about which ones are safe during pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the following:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also tells us that there is no convincing evidence for risk to the unborn baby from inactivated viral or bacterial vaccines. These vaccines include: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, injected typhoid, meningococcal, pneumococcal, Tetanus-diphtheria toxoid, injected polio, and Japanese encephalitis.

Another problem that can ruin a trip to a foreign country is travelers' diarrhea. There are organisms in the food and water of some countries that don't bother the natives because they are used to them, but they can make you very sick. To reduce the risk of illness when visiting less-developed foreign countries, drink only bottled water, do not use ice cubes in your drinks, and avoid fresh, uncooked produce.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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