Nowadays, many couples try to plan a little getaway when they’re preparing to have a baby. Aptly known as a ‘Babymoon,’ it’s often the parents’ last opportunity to enjoy baby-free time. But that’s not the only reason you may travel in pregnancy. From work commitments to family emergencies, there are dozens of reasons you may need to travel while expecting. But not every mode of transportation when traveling is recommended in pregnancy.
Below, we take an in-depth look at the most popular modes of transportation – planes, vehicles, and boats – and discuss what you need to know about riding while pregnant.
Flying While Pregnant
The protocol for flying while pregnant often varies between airlines, but most carriers let pregnant people fly up to 36 weeks of gestation, so long as they have no pre-existing health complications. Some airlines require you to bring a doctor’s note confirming you’ve been approved to travel by air.
It’s important to contact the airline beforehand to clarify their guidelines for pregnant passengers, to confirm whether you’ll be okay to travel and if there’s anything you need to do beforehand.
But just because you can fly while pregnant, it doesn’t mean you should. The farther along you are, the more uncomfortable and riskier taking a plane can be. The Government of Canada explains that the safest time to travel by air in pregnancy is between 18 and 24 weeks of gestation, as obstetric emergencies are most common in the third and first trimester.
One serious complication you’re at risk for when flying while pregnant is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), as both pregnancy and taking a flight raise the risk of blood clots. So, if you’re riding an airplane while expecting, this risk is even higher.
It’s possible to form blood clots in the deep vein when flying since you’re required to sit in a confined space for a long time. Similarly, in pregnancy, you experience less blood flow to the legs since the blood vessels near the pelvis are pressed on by the fetus, increasing the likelihood of developing blood clots.
There are things you can do to lower the risk of DVT while flying in pregnancy. It’s recommended to wear loose clothes and move as much as possible by walking up and down the aisles. Ask your doctor if you could benefit from compression stockings.
It’s also possible to develop less serious but equally uncomfortable symptoms while flying in pregnancy, like gassiness and dehydration.
When flying, all gasses expand as pressure decreases while the altitude increases – including the gas in your gut. This is why people experience heightened gassiness and bloating in an airplane. But pregnancy also increases the risk of gas thanks to hormonal changes. If you have to fly, be sure to pack anti-gas remedies ahead of time to combat this symptom.
Additionally, it’s easier to feel dehydrated on a flight. The cabin has low humidity levels since air at higher altitudes has less moisture. This can make you feel dehydrated quicker. Symptoms can include:
- a scratchy throat
- dry mouth and eyes
- feeling lightheaded
- extreme thirst
Moreover, pregnant people are likely to become dehydrated quicker since the body requires a higher level of fluid to sustain the growing fetus. If you’re flying in pregnancy, be sure to stay hydrated to avoid uncomfortable symptoms. Untreated dehydration can be serious and even life-threatening.
Road Trip While Pregnant
Whether you’re traveling in a car, bus, or train, there are a variety of things in mind when planning a road trip in pregnancy. Unlike flying, there are no general guidelines for when pregnant women should avoid long travel times in vehicles. After all, you’ll likely take a car to the hospital when you’re ready to deliver. But it’s harder for the body to tolerate being in a car for a long time when expecting than not.
In general, shorter car rides are better during pregnancy. If you must travel a long duration by car while expecting, it’s best to break it up into chunks. Drive for a few hours, and then stop. Make sure to move around during breaks to avoid the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can occur in a car just like a plane since you’ll similarly be in a tight spot.
March of Dimes recommends not driving for more than 5 to 6 hours per day, especially in later trimesters when sitting in a single position can become painful. It’s better to add more days to your trip than to try rushing the drive in a shorter amount of time.
Similar to flying, wear loose clothing for maximum comfort and breathability. Wear compression stockings if your doctor recommends it. Pack healthy snacks and water (or other hydrating liquids) to keep your blood sugar and hydration levels up.
If you’ve been struggling with morning sickness (especially if you have a history of feeling nausea in the car), this is likely to be exacerbated on a road trip, so proceed with caution. At the very least, pack anti-nausea remedies to combat light-headedness. When in doubt, take a break from the car.
Boating While Pregnant
Taking a sailboat or cruise may seem like a safe way to travel in pregnancy, so long as you’re not doing any extreme water sports. While there’s no specific time when a pregnant woman should avoid a boat, there are important factors to keep in mind.
There’s always a risk of giving birth in the last trimester. There is limited medical personnel available on a cruise, and you may not be able to easily pull into a port to access help on land. Medical services will be even more limited on a smaller boat. It may take hours to dock on land or for help to come to find you in a medical emergency.
If you have any pre-existing health complications (even if you’re not in your third trimester), you’ll likely be advised to avoid boating activities.
Additionally, seasickness is very common when boating. If you’re struggling with morning sickness, this is likely to be exacerbated on a boat, which can prevent you from enjoying yourself. Pack anti-nausea remedies if you can’t avoid the boat.
Moreover, your body’s center of gravity changes as your baby bump grows. This makes pregnant people less coordinated and more unbalanced, raising the risk of falling. Boats can be bumpy, especially on choppy waters, and the deck can be slippery from waves. This means you’re at an even higher risk of falling in pregnancy, which can injure the fetus.
We encourage you to speak with your doctor before making any travel plans. They’ll be able to discuss any risks with you in-depth, and decide what mode of transportation is right for you given your specific situation.
Sources: Government of Canada, CDC, March of Dimes, Parents, Conde Nast Traveler, NHS,