The Travelling Bump: Keeping Safe and Sound
While some women would much rather stay put at home, or at least near home while pregnant, some may just be hit by the travel bug. What with the trend of babymooning on the rise, it’s just so tempting to pack your suitcase and go off on a nice, relaxing holiday before baby gets here, isn’t it? Well, if you so happen to feel that way, read on for some tips on how to have a safe and enjoyable journey.
Provided your pregnancy is not a high-risk one, the safest time for you to travel is during the second trimester, for by then, you would be out of the vulnerable stage. Any morning sicknesses you may have been experiencing would have also subsided by then, leaving you in much better shape to travel. In any case, if you’re pregnant and have travelling in your mind, you should consult your doctor for advice on your health care during your travels.
High risk pregnancies
While we hope it’s not the case with you, there are conditions where travelling is out of the question for a pregnant woman. Usually, it’s when a pregnancy is deemed a high risk one, where the woman is experiencing one or more of the following complications:
- Cervical problems, such as ‘incompetent cervix’
- Vaginal bleeding
- Multiple pregnancy – twins, triplets, etc
- Past or present gestational diabetes
- Past or present pre-eclampsia
- Past or present abnormalities or complications of the placenta
- A past miscarriage
- A past ectopic pregnancy
- A past premature labour
- Severe anemia
- Heart disease
- Respiratory health issues
- Current/recent bone injury
Immunisations for pregnant travellers
Travellers to most developing nations need to be immunised against diseases such as typhoid. The issue in this is that some immunisations can be potentially dangerous to unborn babies. With the exception of the influenza vaccine, which can be safely given to pregnant women, many immunisations haven’t been adequately tested to be safe for pregnant women. Generally, all live virus vaccines (such as mumps and measles) should be avoided during pregnancy.
Some vaccines, such as for yellow fever, may be safely given after the first trimester, but be advised by your doctor first!
Make it a point to look up the standard of medical care at your chosen destination, just in case you need help while you’re there.
Air travel and pregnancy
Before you travel anywhere by plane, it’s crucial to discuss your plans with your doctor so that your health can be evaluated to see if you’re fit for such a journey, for after all, the last thing any pregnant mom wants to do is to compromise her pregnancy well being. In any case, pregnant women with gestational diabetes or a multiple pregnancy, for examples, are generally advised against air travels.
Other than that, air travel in the last six weeks of pregnancy could also trigger premature labour. You’ll have to check with the airlines anyway, for some do not allow a woman who’s 35 weeks pregnant or more to fly with them. Some may allow it as long as you have your doctor’s approval note.
Long distance travelling and DVT risks
For almost anyone, regardless of being pregnant or not, the thought of a vacation overseas, or driving to another far-away state may be exciting, but the journey there would require some health considerations, especially if the destination is many, many hours away! Healthwise, lack of movements for long periods of time during car, bus, rail or air travel increases the risk of clots forming in the deep veins of the leg, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These clots can circulate and lodge in parts of the body such as the lungs, and wrack havoc in one’s body.
In a pregnancy, the risk of DVT increases if:
- You’ve had DVT in the past
- You weigh more than 100kg
- You’re having a multiple pregnancy
- You have a family history of DVT
DVT precautions for travelling while pregnant
One in 1,000 women are known to develop DVT during pregnancy and the chances of developing DVT can increase by two or three times during a long-distance flight. While there is no research-based advice on travel for pregnant women, if you do choose to go on a long-distance travel, you’re advised to:
- Discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
- Purchase well-fitting compression stockings during the journey (ask your doctor for a recommendation).
- En-route your journey, walk regularly, such as around the airplane cabin (if the flight is smooth).
- Exercises your legs frequently. Remember to flex and extend your ankles now and then.
- Drink lots of fluid to remain hydrated.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine intake.
Long car rides
If road travels are on the menu, you’d still have to take precautions to keep yourself and your baby safe throughout the journey. This is especially so if it’s going to involve long hours in a vehicle.
Take toilet stops seriously
Unlike in airplanes, where the toilet is in the plane and you can get to it easily, car rides may warrant multiple stop-overs for toilet breaks. This may lead to holding back due to the sheer inconvenience of stopping at rest spots. Resist holding off toilet breaks for the next stop, for it can not only get really uncomfortable for you, but it may also lead to bladder issues and infections. So, go as frequently as you can! In any case, it’ll also give you more chances of stretching those legs.
Wear your seat belt
- Pregnant or not, your car seat belt is not an option but a necessity. If you’re pregnant though, remember to fasten the lap sash across your lap and under your bump, while fitting the shoulder sash above your bump and between your breasts.
- Avoid wearing it across your bump as a sudden jolt could cause your placenta to separate from your uterus. If you are sitting in the front passenger seat, move your seat well back from the dashboard to reduce airbag impact in case of a collision.
- If you’re pregnant and driving, have your seat as far back from the steering wheel as possible, while still being able to drive comfortably. It may help if the steering wheel can be tilted downwards, away from your pregnant belly.
- Heaven forbid, but if you were to be involved in a collision, however minor, see your doctor. You’ll also have to inform the doctor if you have a rhesus negative blood group, as you may need to have an anti-D injection.
Be prepared for possible breakdowns!
Always be ready for this and have the contacts of those who can help you in case of a breakdown, and always carry a mobile phone. Here are some of the local car towing centres:
A & S Automotive.
Tel: 012-327 1820 / 016-297 5135
Pelangi Auto Services Center (PASC).
Tel: 019-719 2000 (Johor)
Automobile Association of Malaysia.
Tel: 03-5511 1932
E-Speed Towing Services.
Tel: 03-7880 8291
Ash Eight Auto Services.
Tel: 03-8081 4005
Tel: 017-691 6720
One World Auto Towing Services.
Tel: 012-649 6915 / 016-363 6923
Medical travel kit
Remember to pack an emergency kit throughout your journey. Have this kit in your carry-on luggage if you’re flying, so you can access it anytime you need.
Items your medical kit should contain:
- Prescribed treatments for heartburn, thrush, constipation and haemorrhoids
- Oral rehydration preparations in case of traveller’s diarrhoea
- Urine dipsticks to check glucose levels (if required)
Avoiding food poisoning during your holiday
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that nothing quite spoils a holiday like having to contend with food poisoning and it’s faithful companion, diarrhea. When you’re pregnant, it can be dangerous too, for certain infections can harm the baby and may even trigger a preterm labour or miscarriage.
Hence, do make it a point to remember the following, to keep safe during your travels:
- Avoid seafood, undercooked meats, soft cheeses and pâtés.
- If you can help it, avoid buffets unless you’re absolutely sure that the food served is fresh.
- Unless they’re being served in reputable hotels or eateries, only eat fruit that you have peeled yourself. Be wary too of raw greens and salads unless you’re preparing them yourself.
- Drink bottled water if you are unsure of the water supply. Use bottled water when brushing your teeth too. Make sure that all eating utensils are thoroughly dried after washing.
- Avoid ice, unless you can ascertain the source of the water.
- If you must use the local water, boil it before consuming.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, before preparing food and before eating.
No overheating, please!
If you plan to travel in hot weathers, you’ll have to make certain that you do not overheat, for that could spell danger for your pregnant body as well as your baby. To minimise the chances of overheating, keep the following points in mind:
- Always have a bottle of water with you for frequent sips.
- Stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. If you have to be outdoors, stay in the shade as much as possible.
- Protect your skin with sunscreen and loose, cotton clothing.
- Avoid exerting yourself. This includes rushing too, so plan your days well and give yourself plenty of time for relaxation.