Safe Travel During Pregnancy
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, in a December 2001 statement, said it is safe for air travel until 36 weeks gestation, which is Four weeks before the due date. After that point, travel is restricted for practical reasons rather than medical reasons. Air travel is not dangerous to pregnant moms or unborn babies; it just isn’t practical to go into labor on a plane, in flight. To be sure about the dates, I suggest women complete all air travel at at least One Month before the due date.
Insurance companies and HMO’s don’t want you delivering away from home, either. They have contracts with certain hospitals, which help keep costs down. Some of these third-party-payers will make you pay for hospital charges if you deliver away from your intended hospital. It is wise to check with your insurance company for travel restrictions in the last month of pregnancy.
Anytime a pregnant woman is a belted-passenger for many hours in a row she has an increased chance of a blood clot developing in the legs. A blood clot in the leg is called a DVT, or deep venous thrombosis. The risk of DVT is related to any Prolonged Sitting, not just sitting on an airplane, and includes long car trips. This DVT can cause severe one-leg-swelling. Leg blood clots can break off and travel to the lungs, called a pulmonary embolism, and can be life threatening.
Preventing Blood Clots During Travel
You should get up and walk for 5 minutes every 60 to 80 minutes, to decrease the chance of blood clot formation in the legs. Sitting still can slow the blood flow through the legs and blood that stands still can clot. Walking can keep the blood flowing, and decrease the chance of clotting. If walking is not possible, then leg exercises may help prevent clots, too. While sitting you can do heel-raises, toe raises and knee raises. One can also try straightening each leg, and then bending at the knee. These leg activities should be done for 5 minutes every hour.
When to Travel
The potential medical complications evolve as pregnancy progresses. Here are a few things to be cautious of at each stage of pregnancy:
- Before 13 weeks – bleeding or miscarriage.
- 14 to 20 weeks – fewest pregnancy-related complications.
- 20 to 24 weeks – extreme premature delivery, the baby may not survive.
- 24 to 34 weeks – premature labor and pain.
- After 35 weeks – delivery.
Where Can You Go
You should consider how and where you would go to the hospital if you are out of town during pregnancy. We generally discourage destinations where good and close medical care is not available.
Travel to most US destinations, and big cities in developed countries seems “OK” anytime during pregnancy. Be aware of the distance to the nearest hospital. You may not find good medical care available on a cruise ship or at some non-US beach destination.