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Tips for traveling while you're pregnant

Oct. 28, 2013 at 7:59 PM ET

Got a babymoon in the Bahamas on the brain? Or planning a trip across the country to visit family before baby arrives? Go for it! The fact is, it's usually pretty safe for women with low-risk pregnancies to travel. (Of course, consult your doctor first—especially if you're high-risk). So book your flight, pack your bags and check out these must-read tips for traveling while pregnant.

Take advantage of the second trimester
Flying to your destination? When you're pregnant, the best time for air travel is during your second trimester, when the risk of miscarriage is significantly lower and—for most women, anyway—morning sickness has subsided. The second trimester is also when many moms-to-be have more energy than they did in their first trimester, and more stamina than they will later on. Don't worry if your trip is planned for a time other than your second trimester—it's not a rule that you have to travel then. Just be aware that if you wait too long, you might not feel like going anywhere. (Hello, nesting instinct!)

Don't go anywhere crazy
Run your destination by your doctor before booking your trip. Most travel is fine, but this probably isn't the time to go on an African safari, since most of the recommended Malaria prevention medications aren't considered to be safe to take during pregnancy. You also want to be sure you're somewhere with good hospitals—and that your insurance will cover any potential medical care.

Know the guidelines
If you're planning to fly to your destination, keep in mind that many doctors recommend against air travel after your 36th week—and each airline has its own policy about permiting pregnant women to travel. (After all, no one wants you to give birth on a plane!) Restrictions are even tighter if you're traveling internationally: it's ill-advised to head overseas after your 32nd week. And if you're carrying multiples, most doctors don't advise air travel beyond 32 weeks for twins, 20 weeks for triplets. So be sure to check with your airline before booking your flight, and carry a note from your doctor stating how far along you are in case you get questions.

Traveling by land or sea? Cruise ships have individual requirements for how late into a pregnancy a passenger can sail—in general, you should be earlier than about 23 weeks—so check with your cruise line before booking. A road trip is safe most any time, but the further along you get, the more uncomfortable a long car ride may be. And remember: your insurance company may not cover your baby's birth if you deliver in an out-of-network hospital, so check your insurance's out-of-network policy if you're close to your due date.

Research hospitals
Before you go, do a little digging to find the nearest reputable hospital and program its phone number and address in your phone. In the unlikely event of an emergency, you'll be glad you were prepared, because the sooner you can get good medical care, the better.

Get comfortable
Flying? Try to get an aisle seat that's close to the front of the plane—negotiating you way to the very back of the plane can be challenging, and a seat near the front will make boarding and disembarking easier. Be sure to do little things to make you more comfortable, like prop a small pillow behind your back and wear loose clothing—they'll go a long way during pregnancy. Finally, check in online from your home computer or from your smartphone to lower your chances of having to stand in line for a prolonged period of time.

Pack plenty of healthy snacks
Free meals and snacks are a thing of the past on most airlines, and what's available for purchase may not be healthy or suit your pregnancy cravings. If you're roadtripping, fast food outlets and gas stations will likely outnumber healthy restaurants. So load up your bag with plenty of healthy, fiber-rich, energy-boosting options—think trail mix, granola bars, fruit and veggies, hummus and lots of water. (Airplane air can be extra dry -- and even light activity can deplete your hydration.) You'll help ward off constipation, bloating and a dipping energy level (none of which are any fun on a vacation!).

Sail through security
Scared of the full-body scans that many airports are using these days? According to the Transportation Security Administration, advanced imaging technology screening is safe for all passengers. But if you're nervous about it, get your doctor's opinion—and know that if you'd rather skip the scan, you do have the right to request an alternative screening procedure. (Just be aware that it will include a physical pat-down).

Regardless of the screening method, make sure you wear slip-on shoes and skip anything that will slow you down in the security line (belts, spare change in your pockets, etc). The sooner you can sit down and relax at your gate before boarding, the better!

Dress in layers
Your body doesn't regulate its temperature quite as well as usual when you're pregnant. You may get overheated more easily, and feel extra sensitive to the cold. So be sure to pack a variety of clothing for your trip, and dress in layers. Being able to easily put on—or take off—a cardigan will help keep you comfortable.

Take your time
Be sure to get to the airport extra early—especially if you're traveling during the busy holiday season—so you can take your time getting through security and to your gate. There's no reason to cut things close; aside from the fact that it's hard to sprint to catch your flight when you're eight months pregnant, rushing and stressing can wipe you out. Not the way you want to start your trip!

Put your feet up
You're at an increased risk of blood clots during pregnancy, so be sure to periodically get up and walk the aisles to keep your blood circulating—especially if it's a long flight. (Driving? Make frequent pit stops -- you'll need to pee anyway—to stretch your legs.) Can't get up? At the very least, do your best to flex your calf muscles up and down often to reduce your risk of clotting. And put up your feet as much as you can.

Take safety precautions
As you're on the go, make sure you and baby are extra safe. Wear your seatbelt (yes, it's safe to do so when you're pregnant—just make sure it's positioned properly, with the lap belt below your belly!) and make sure your car has been tuned up and that the airbags are in working order. And it should go without saying, but while you're on your trip avoid dangerous activities like horseback riding and surfing.

Make frequent pit stops
Gotta pee? Of course you do! It's no secret that pregnant women have to use the bathroom a lot, so factor plenty of pit stops into your trip. Remember that a clean, public bathroom is hard to find when you really need one, but the SitOrSquat app can help. Download it before, ahem, you go!

Don't overdo It
Even if you were a type A go-getter pre-pregnancy, resist the urge to overdo it while traveling. Really, you don't have to see every single tourist attraction or visit every single family member in a 50 mile radius. Plan to take things slowly and don't overload your schedule. Enjoy your trip, relax—and consider booking a prenatal massage when you get home.


A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.



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