Travel and Vacations

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If you’re experiencing a problem-free pregnancy, it’s perfectly possible to travel up to about 36 weeks. Just take a few sensible precautions, try to be prepared for the unexpected, and enjoy a well-deserved stress-free break.

Most women have the greatest energy for traveling in the second trimester, after nausea has settled down and while they still feel mobile and energetic. Take the opportunity to get away on a vacation if you can, especially if this is your first baby: It might be your last opportunity for a while to completely relax, take in some sights, and spend quality time alone with your partner.

If you want to travel by plane, bear in mind that you may not be able to fly late in pregnancy without your doctor’s permission. After 36 weeks, it’s best to stay within an easy drive of the place where you intend to give birth.

Where to go

Very hot, long-haul destinations and active holidays probably won’t feel as relaxing as they once did. Closer destinations, comfortable surroundings, good food, and plenty of opportunities for relaxation will be much less stressful.

It’s advisable to avoid traveling to parts of the world where there is a high risk of disease, or where the emergency services are not reliable. Although shots for tetanus, hepatitis, and the flu are considered safe in pregnancy, live vaccines, such as chicken pox, measles, mumps, and rubella, are not usually recommended at this time, and oral vaccines to protect against yellow fever, typhoid, polio, and anthrax are contraindicated. However, if you do need to travel, your doctor may decide that the risk of the vaccine is lower than the risks associated with contracting the disease itself. In countries where the water is not safe to drink, rely on bottled water, even to brush your teeth. Only eat fruit you peel yourself and avoid ice in drinks, and leafy greens and salads, which may have been washed in contaminated water.

If you’re unsure about local tap water, buy bottled water (make sure the seal is unbroken) and use it when brushing your teeth as well as for drinking. Avoid drinks with ice and don’t eat salads or fruit you can’t peel since they may have been washed in contaminated water. A less obvious danger is fruit such as melon, which may have been injected with water to increase its weight.

Avoid outdoor stalls or cafés where food might have been prepared hours in advance. Try to find restaurants where food is freshly cooked and standards seem high. Be scrupulous about hygiene, and carry moist wipes in case handwashing facilities are inadequate.

On the trip

Sitting in a cramped seat for hours can cause your ankles and feet to swell. If you’re traveling by car, stop every hour to stretch your legs, have a snack, or find a bathroom. On a train or airplane, keep your circulation moving with foot and ankle exercises, and get up regularly to walk down the aisle when it’s safe to do so. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water or juice, even if you do need to empty your bladder frequently. A few comforts, such as a cushion to tuck behind your back or a cooling water spritzer, can make a trip more bearable.

Vacation activities

There are some activities to forego in pregnancy, such as water skiing or horse riding, where a fall could harm your baby. Scuba diving is particularly dangerous because of the risk of air bubbles forming in the bloodstream. If you have children, ignore pleas to join them on amusement park rides.

If you’re used to exercising, there is no reason not to go swimming or walking, just don’t overdo it—hiking up hills under a blazing sun
could send your temperature soaring, which is a bad thing in pregnancy. In the first trimester especially, extreme heat can affect fetal development. You might also become dehydrated, which later on can increase the risk of premature labor.

Be cautious also about less energetic activities. Hot tubs and saunas are best avoided since the heat could make you feel faint and may be harmful to your baby. An aromatherapy massage sounds like a treat, but some oils may be toxic to the baby, especially in the early
months. If you want pampering, look for spas with treatments for pregnant moms.

In pregnancy, your skin becomes more sensitive to the sun, so whatever you’re doing be careful to protect against overexposure to the sun.

Remain as mobile as you can (without risking losing your balance), and get out of your seat every hour or so to stretch and walk around. Wearing support stockings or socks will help, as will drinking plenty of fluids.

Car trips

Car trips are notorious for inducing travel sickness and fatigue, so drink regularly, eat energy-giving foods (such as fruit and nuts), and stop often for breaks. Wear your seat belt with the shoulder strap between your breasts and the lap belt under your bump, rather than
across your belly. Keep a window open and share the load with someone if you are driving, to help you stay alert.

Enjoying a hassle-free trip

Being well prepared can make any trip more relaxed. Consider the following tips when planning your trip:

Take a pillow and blankets so you can prop yourself in different positions. An eye mask and relaxing music on your MP3 player can make sleep more likely, and a pair of cozy socks is comforting if your feet tend to swell when you remove your shoes.

If you are traveling by car, ensure that someone else lifts your luggage into and out of the trunk.

Your luggage should be light enough to be carried easily or pulled. A few smaller bags may be better than one large one, which will require help to transport.

Experts are investigating a link between prolonged exposure to the sun and damage to the fetus. There is a possibility that ultraviolet rays could cause a deficiency of folic acid—a vitamin that helps prevent defects in the baby’s nervous system leading to spina bifida. Nothing is yet proven, but it’s not worth taking the risk. Enjoy the sun in moderation but don’t bake yourself or use tanning beds before you go on vacation.

“I’m worried about flying, because someone told me there is a high risk of DVT in pregnancy. Is this true?”

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the formation of a blood clot in a vein (often in a leg), is sometimes caused by long periods of immobility, such as sitting on a plane. Although the risk factor may be slightly increased in pregnant women, because their blood tends to clot more easily, the chance of your developing DVT is still very low. To minimize the risk even further, you could purchase some special
support socks, which are designed to improve blood flow in the legs.

“Are car seatbelts and airbags safe to use in pregnancy?

In the event of an accident, these appliances are far more likely to prevent injury than cause it— never travel without fastening your seatbelt. For comfort, position the straps above and below your belly rather than across it. Being hit by an inflated airbag will not hurt you or the baby, but to lessen the impact you should position your seat as far back as possible.”

Excerpted from Pregnancy Day By Day Canadian Edition – copyright 2013 Dorling Kindersley Ltd.

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