Traveling During Pregnancy
Air and foreign 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:
- Ask for a bulkhead seat. These are roomier and let you stretch out your legs. They are in great demand, so mention that you're pregnant and hope for preferential treatment.
- Request an aisle seat. This lets you get up to stretch and visit the bathroom as often as you need without bothering other passengers.
- Bring your own snacks so you're not held hostage waiting for a bag of peanuts.
- Bring a large bottle of water. The recirculated air on a commercial jet can be extremely dry and can lead to dehydration. Drink lots of fluids during the flight.
- If you are prone to motion sickness, check with your doctor about using a medication like Dramamine. Most are safe to take during pregnancy.
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.
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:
- Pregnant women should not receive MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella).
- The yellow fever or polio (OPV) vaccine should be given to pregnant women only if there is a substantial risk of exposure.
- Being vaccinated in the second or third trimester minimizes theoretical concerns over possible birth defects. (Vaccinations in the first trimester do not always offer this protection because the fetus's organs have not all been formed at that time.)
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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