Travel Tips for Expectant Moms
By Dr. Michele Hakakha and Dr. Ari Brown Adapted from the new book, “Expecting 411”
Pregnancy certainly affects the lives of expectant moms and dads, but it doesn’t have to put a damper on your summer vacation plans. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about traveling while pregnant that we hear from pregnant women every day in our private practices. Is it safe for me to travel while pregnant? Are all forms of transportation safe? We don’t recommend hot air balloons or camels, but most conventional modes of transportation are safe. If you have a “high risk” pregnancy or are carrying multiples, your doctor may have a different restriction date in mind, so ask him or her for recommendations tailored to your specific health profile.
Here are some general guidelines:
• You can travel by plane up to your 36th week — but check individual airline policies, which may vary.
• When flying, get up and walk around frequently, stretch your legs and feet while in your seat, and wear Ted support hose to keep the blood circulation in your legs robust.
• For cruises, the last acceptable time frame is 23-27 weeks, depending on the cruise line.
• If you are going by bus, train, or driving, stay within 1 hour’s distance from a hospital. Camping in a remote area, for example, is not advisable. You can travel by car right up to the end of your delivery date, but try to stay within an hour’s drive from your doctor or delivery hospital. How can I stay healthy while pregnant and traveling?
• If you are going to the mountains, swimming in the ocean, or walking around a new city, watch for signs of getting short of breath. If you feel tired, stop! • If you’ll be out in the hot sun, drink extra water, stay out of the direct sun during peak hours, and pack plenty of sunblock, hat, and sunglasses. • Always keep a bottle of pure water with you. Avoid plastic bottles with #7 on the bottom — these may contain Bisphenol-A (BPA), which may have adverse effects on fetuses. • Avoid unpasteurized delicacies, raw fish or meat, and in international destinations, water and fresh fruit and veggies.
• Keep a stash of healthy snacks with you on road, plane, and train trips so you can avoid getting famished and then seeking relief in convenience food, hotel snacks, and junk food binges. Healthy snacks might include: yogurt, small containers of unsweetened rice pudding, almonds and walnuts, apples, carrots, almond butter on whole grain bread, cheese and whole grain crackers, hummus and veggie dippers, and cherries, berries, and red grapes.
• When ordering from restaurants, don’t be shy about “special ordering.” Pregnancy is one of the few times when waiters will give you a break. Keep your food choices healthy — grilled fish or poultry, whole grains such as rice, steamed vegetables, and salad will give you and baby exactly what you need to stay energized.
• Take frequent pit stops for bathroom and leg stretching.
• If you are driving and have room for an extra suitcase, bring one filled with favorite pillows — such as a body pillow designed for pregnancy back relief — so you’ll be comfortable no matter where you rest your head.
• If you’re sightseeing, such as seeing art treasures in a museum, take advantage of couches and seats and appreciate the art from a sitting position from time to time. This will keep your back from aching later on.
• Wear practical shoes and comfortable clothes. What are potential health hazards for you and your unborn baby while traveling or visiting spas? • These are okay: bug spray, airport x-rays and scanners (it takes 2,500 exposures in one year to get a harmful dose), sunblock (wear #20 or higher), spray-on tans, massages (but no electric or warming blankets, massage of the inner or outer ankle bones, or the webbing between thumb and finger, and no essential oils), facials (but no Retin A, Accutane, or large amounts of salicylic acid), manicures and pedicures in a well-ventilated room, chemical peels (but only superficial peels that use glycolic acid, TCA, or lactic acid), and hair highlights (but not full hair dying where chemicals touch the scalp).
• These are NOT okay: Mudbaths, paraffin wraps, seaweed wraps, hot tubs, saunas, tanning beds, hair jobs (perms, relaxers, Japanese hair straightening), laser hair removal, electrolysis, bleaching creams, and BOTOX. Do you have any more tips before I go on vacation? Purchase travel insurance. It’s a small investment that can save you big time. Your unborn baby doesn’t care that you’ve planned this family reunion for more than a year. She is on her own time schedule, and might decide to attend the reunion uninvited.
* * * * * Dr. Michele Hakakha is an award-winning obstetrician/gynecologist practicing in Beverly Hills, CA, and featured expert in the acclaimed documentary “Little Man.” Dr. Ari Brown, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician in Austin, TX, an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, the children’s health expert for WebMD, and a medical advisor for Parents Magazine and ABC News. A past guest on Rachael Ray and NBC’s Today Show, Dr. Brown penned the best-selling Baby 411 and Toddler 411 book series before coauthoring the new title with Dr. Hakakha, Expecting 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Pregnancy (Windsor Peak Press, 2010, www.expecting411.com)–the only pregnancy guide written by two MDs who are also moms.
Expecting? Check out the award-winning baby-care DVD Bringing Baby Home.