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Tips for traveling abroad while pregnant

Almost four million babies were born in the U.S. last year, so it's no surprise that many women find themselves wondering, is it safe to travel abroad when you're pregnant? It's always best to check with your doctor, but as long as you're having a healthy pregnancy with no serious risk factors or complications, it can be safe to travel abroad during your pregnancy.

Whether you planned a trip before you found out you were pregnant or are just traveling during your pregnancy, these tips can help you travel well and be more comfortable when you're away from home.

Is there a "best time" to travel during pregnancy?

Most experts say that if mom and the fetus are healthy, travel is generally safe until the 36th week of pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the best time to travel is between weeks 14 and 28. During this time, any morning sickness you may have experienced is usually gone, and it's not too hard to get around.

4 things to do before you go

Take a few steps before you leave to make sure your trip is safe and enjoyable:

  1. Make a doctor's appointment at least six weeks before your vacation. Ask if you need any vaccinations or immunizations, and find out if pregnant women traveling to your destination need to take any special precautions.
  1. Ask your doctor if you're healthy enough to both travel and fly. If the answer is yes, your doctor may have special instructions for you. For example, you may need to get up and walk around several times during a long flight or wear compression stockings.
  1. Create a written record of all relevant personal information, including your name, age, due date, and prescription medication details, along with your doctor's name and a description of any allergies or medical conditions. On your trip, carry this with you at all times.
  1. Buy travel medical insurance. A product like SafeTrip Travel Protection will cover complications arising from pregnancy and can help you find qualified medical attention nearby if you need it. Plus, SafeTrip professionals can interact with your doctor at home and handle payment at the time of service so you won't have to wait until you get home to submit your paperwork for reimbursement.

Flying to your destination (and getting around safely while you're there)

Most airlines let pregnant women fly until week 36, but some have an earlier cutoff, so be sure to check for restrictions before your day of departure. On a long international flight, your feet may swell, so wear comfortable shoes. Choose an aisle seat so you can get up more easily to walk around every hour or so. And do leg exercises in your seat.

If you're going on a cruise, check with the cruise line to find out if it has any restrictions for pregnant women. For safety reasons, most will allow you to sail only up to the 24th week of your pregnancy, and you may need a medical certificate from your doctor stating that both you and your baby are fit to travel, along with the estimated date of delivery.

Traveling by train or bus can be challenging when you're pregnant. Trains and buses often make sudden movements, so be sure to hold onto handles or seat backs on your way to the restroom. Whenever you're in a car, buckle up. Fasten the belt below your belly and place the shoulder belt off across the center of your chest.

Watch what you eat and drink

The best way to prevent foodborne illness while traveling is to avoid unsafe food and water:

  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food served hot.
  • Avoid food that has been sitting at room temperature.
  • Don't eat raw or undercooked meat or fish.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables only if you can peel them or wash them in clean water.
  • Don't drink unpasteurized milk or eat soft cheeses (like brie) that are made with unpasteurized milk.
  • Drink only canned or bottled water and other beverages.
  • Avoid iced drinks that may contain contaminated water.

When you're out and about, carry healthy snacks and bottled water in your daypack so you won't be tempted by possibly contaminated street food.

The dehydration traveler's diarrhea causes can be a big problem for pregnant women. If you get diarrhea, drink plenty of fluids, but avoid taking diarrhea treatments that contain bismuth (including Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate), which are not recommended for pregnant women.

Zika and malaria: A word of caution

Zika infections can cause severe birth defects, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas with a risk of Zika. Learn more about Zika and pregnancy.

During pregnancy, malaria can be more severe than it is in women who aren't pregnant. The mosquito-borne disease can increase your risk for premature birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth, so pregnant women should avoid travel to areas with malaria.

Make the most of your trip

Traveling abroad when you're pregnant may require a little extra planning, but mostly you just need to use your common sense. Don't overdo it. Take plenty of breaks. Stay hydrated. And have fun.

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