Holidaying with a bump is always going to be a little different – you can forget the sangria for a start – but there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy one final jaunt before your baby arrives.
“Getting away is a great thing to do when you’re expecting,” says Emma Cannon, natural pregnancy expert and author of You and Your Bump. “It’s a chance to reflect on your pre-pregnancy life and to look forward to becoming a mum.” And with a little pre-departure planning, you’ll return relaxed and ready to embark on the biggest journey of all.
When you can travel
You’ll need to undergo important tests and scans in your first trimester, so many expectant mamas prefer to stay grounded during their first 12 weeks. Morning sickness and exhaustion can also take their toll, but symptoms usually begin to ease once you reach week 14 or 15, so your second trimester is often the most pleasant time to travel.
“Between 13 and 24 weeks is usually the safest time to fly because that’s when the greatest risk of miscarriage has passed, and it’s also before the main risk times for pre-eclampsia and premature labour,” says Dr Carol Cooper, GP and author of Baby & Child Questions & Answers.
How you can travel
You might be feeling fine, but from 28 weeks most airlines require written confirmation from your doctor or midwife that you’re, what they call, fit to fly. Some carriers won’t allow you to fly at 34 weeks or over, although some will allow you to travel up to the end of your 36th week, provided you’ve had no complications. If you’re having twins, most airlines won’t allow you to fly past your 32nd week.
Call your airline to check their rules and remember to take into account when you’ll be flying back home. If you’re away and then turn into, say, your 32nd week, you’ll be over the date you’re allowed to fly.
Getting the right travel insurance
“Some policies won’t cover you if you’re travelling out or returning within 12 or 8 weeks of your due date,” says Graeme Trudgill from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (www.biba.org.uk). “Others no longer have this exclusion, but are worded so that only complications are covered. This means if the delivery’s early, then you’d have to pay for the costs at the hospital, as this is a natural occurrence and not a complication of pregnancy,” he explains.
Tell your insurer if you’ve got any complications with this pregnancy or a previous one, get all cover confirmed in writing – and beware of any loopholes. “A lot of policies will ask if you’ve seen a doctor about a condition in the last month and whether you’ve still got the condition, so technically you may be voiding your insurance policy,” adds Carol Cooper.
If you’re travelling in Europe, get a European Health Insurance Card (previously called an E111), which entitles you to free or reduced cost emergency medical care. Pick up a form from your local post office or go to www.ehic.org.uk.
- Travelling abroad during pregnancy
- Air travel in pregnancy – airline policies
- Pregnancy safety on holiday
Mums-to-be are generally advised to avoid visiting countries where they’ll need vaccinations to travel because of concerns that the live virus or bacteria in the jab could harm the unborn baby.
“There’s no evidence jabs will cause foetal damage but there’s a question mark over live vaccines like MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella), oral polio, oral typhoid and yellow fever,” says Carol. She also recommends avoiding destinations where you’ll need to take anti-malaria tablets. “A lot of the anti-malarial tablets aren’t suitable for use in pregnancy and the risk of malaria’s actually higher for a pregnant woman,” she says. Talk to your GP before you book anything to see what jabs you might need.
Avoiding DVT (deep vein thrombosis)
Your blood gets more ‘sticky’ when you’re pregnant so your chance of having a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a blood clot increases. “You can get very dehydrated on a plane and, because you don’t move your legs very much, this can be a risk if you’re pregnant,” explains Carol. “Compression stockings can be a good idea but they’re probably not enough to fully prevent DVT.”
To reduce the risk further, stay hydrated, keep moving your legs, and take regular walks around the plane. This is easier if you can book an aisle seat, or ask a fellow traveller if they wouldn’t mind swapping.
Food on board
Constipation is a common complaint among mums-to-be and can be worse when you fly due to dehydration. It’s best to skip the peanuts and snack on fresh fruit instead, which is full of fibre and has a high natural water content. “It’s a good idea to take a probiotic to aid digestion,” says Emma Cannon. “Peppermint tea, cinnamon and liquorice are also helpful,” she adds.
A bit of sunshine is bound to give you a boost, but baking in the sun for hours on end can cause overheating and dehydration, which isn’t good for you or your bump. To avoid getting hot and bothered, opt for loose-fitting cotton clothing, drink plenty of water and stay out of the sun when it’s at its strongest from 11am until 3pm.
Carol also recommends that you slap on sunscreen and wear a wide floppy hat to reduce your chances of chloasma, commonly known as the mask of pregnancy, which results in brown patches of pigmentation on your face. “It’s not exclusive to pregnancy, but it’s more common. It does fade slowly over time, but it may not disappear for quite a few months after you’ve had the baby,” she explains.
Playing safe while there
There are some activities that are best left until after your little one arrives, such as scuba diving and high-impact sports like surfing. “High altitude is not a good idea either because of the lower levels of oxygen in the air,” advises Carol.
Dos and don’ts for snacking on the plane:
Emma Cannon’s tips for feeling good at 30,000 feet
- DO drink plenty of still water to keep hydrated as the air in the cabin is much drier than normal.
- DON’T load up on tea and coffee. It’s tempting but the caffeine in these drinks will
only dehydrate you further.
- DO go for foods that may help thin the blood, like grapes, prunes and cherries.
- DON’T eat salted foods, just before or during the flight. Snacks like crisps and peanuts will just make you more thirsty.
“When I was 20 weeks pregnant with my son Elijah, I flew to Argentina to visit a friend just before my second scan. While I was there, I even took a ferry to Uruguay on my own. The hardest part about travelling with a bump for me was saying no to local delicacies like paté and red wine.”
Carla Newey, 29, from Haywards Heath, mum to Elijah, 22 months
“My hubbie Mark, 23, and I celebrated our last nappy-free New Year’s Eve in Paris. At 25 weeks pregnant, I was still able to fly but we didn’t want to risk it, so we went by Eurostar and did our sightseeing by bus to save my swollen feet.”
Lucy Benton, 22, from Bognor Regis, 38 weeks pregnant