Travelling While Pregnant

Expectant mothers should realize that travelling is more complicated than simply hopping on an airplane while they are pregnant.  Ideally non-essential travel should be avoided during pregnancy due to the increased risk to the mother and her unborn child.

  • First-time-mothers are more at risk because they are unfamiliar with pregnancy and don’t really know how the changes in their bodies are supposed to progress. They might not notice danger signs which other more experienced moms will.
  • Pregnancy is divided into three stages called trimesters, travelling will have different effects on pregnant mothers depending on which trimester they are in.
    • During the first trimester travelling might increase nausea and because of the additional strain travel places on the body. The risk of miscarriage is increased.
    • Most expectant mothers are usually in very good health during the second trimester, if a trip has to be undertaken, this is probably the best time to do so.
    • The third trimester: new-mothers will probably get tired more easily from the extra weight they carry around. Added pressure on the bladder might increase the need to empty the bladder.
  • Most airlines will not let pregnant mothers travel from your 36th week (nationally) and in some cases won’t allow travel from the 26th week (internationally).
  • During pregnancy all drugs should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. This holds true for malaria prophylaxis and travel vaccines as well. Expectant mothers should assess the risk of unprotected travel versus the importance of the trip in consultation with their travel medical advisor.
  • South African Port Health authority requires Yellow Fever vaccinations for returned travellers from 42 countries. Pregnant women may get exemption letters from their nearest Travel Medical Centres to allow unhindered return to South Africa.
  • Travellers diarrhoea is a problem for all travellers but more so during pregnancy due to the risk of dehydration. Because most travellers suffer from traveller’s diarrhoea at some stage during their trip pregnant women should take note of the additional risk and weigh up the necessity of the trip.
  • Because the body diverts some blood flow to the womb, pregnant women may become tried more easily and will also be more sensitive to temperature changes especially during the third trimester. It is essential to maintain a good fluid intake and a balanced diet to stay healthy.
  • When planning a trip a pregnant mother should ensure that she will have ready access to decent medical facilities and doctors who can speak her mother tongue.
  • Medical insurance should be chosen carefully as most won’t cover pregnancy-related illnesses. Proper consultation with your travel health provider may be necessary.