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Dr Minal’s top tips for travelling while pregnant
Talk to your doctor first
Discuss your travel plans with your doctor or midwife before booking your trip to ensure it is safe to travel. To help you decide whether or not to travel in pregnancy, think about your medical history, any increased risks you may have, and ensure you are up-to-date with your antenatal checks to rule out any complications.
You should discuss disease prevention, ensure you have all the relevant immunisations and/or medications recommended for the country you are travelling to (having checked with your doctor first that these are safe to take during pregnancy) and make sure your travel insurance covers you for any eventuality.
Avoid travelling to areas where vaccinations are required
It may not always be possible to avoid visiting destinations which require vaccinations while you are pregnant. If this is the case, you should speak to your GP who will be able to outline the risks and benefits of any travel vaccination that you may require. If there is a high risk of disease in the area you are travelling to, it’s often safer for you to have a vaccine rather than travel unprotected. This is because most diseases will be more harmful to you and your baby than a vaccine.
Discuss malaria treatments
Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to malaria. This is a very serious condition, which in pregnant women is associated with miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight and can be fatal for both a mother and her baby. If possible, you should avoid travelling to Malaria risk areas if you are pregnant.
However, if you’re unable to postpone or cancel your trip, your doctor will discuss preventative treatments for malaria. Malaria prevention advice will depend on where you are going – you must take precautions against being bitten by mosquitos and insects and may require anti-malaria medication. Your doctor will advise on the safest medication available and which, if any, anti-malaria medication to take. Remember to take any anti-malaria medication regularly and exactly as prescribed.
Take precautions against mosquito bites
Your doctor will go over these precautions, but the main forms of protection against mosquito bites are as follows:
A) avoid going out between dusk and dawn
B) apply an insect repellent recommended for use in pregnancy with a concentration of up to 50% DEET (with a minimum of at least 20% DEET) and re-apply as directed. As a guide, 50% DEET has the longest duration of action and needs fewer applications per day – it can provide protection for up to 12 hours, although the interval between applications depends on sweat-off time, activity levels, DEET formulation and concentration used.
C) use a mosquito net treated with insecticide over your bed and sleep in an air conditioned room.
D) Wear a long sleeved top, full length trousers, and socks to cover up your skin.
Get pregnancy travel insurance
Make sure that you are covered for key eventualities, such as medical care during labour, care for your new-born baby, and the cost of changing the date of your return trip if you go into labour.
Reduce the risk of DVT
You’re more at risk of deep vein thrombosis when pregnant, and this is increased when flying. Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes and ensure you have regular cups of water throughout your flight. Make sure you take regular walks where possible and do in-seat exercises every 20 minutes, wear graduated elastic compression stockings provided by your doctor, and check with your doctor whether you will need heparin injections.
Pack your pregnancy documents
Some airlines will require a prewritten note to be signed by your doctor before you can fly. To avoid delays, especially if you’re over 28 weeks pregnant, always keep your pregnancy notes to-hand when travelling. Bring a note that states your due date, whether you have a single or multiple pregnancy, and includes details of any pregnancy related complications, medications you’re on and your health status.
Pay attention to what you’re eating
Take care to avoid food and water borne conditions which can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea, and stick to bottled water. Since some medicines for treating stomach upsets and diarrhoea aren’t suitable during pregnancy, check first with a doctor before you take any medication.
For more information on travel medicines, including malaria tablets, jet lag tablets and vaccinations, click the resources below.