The holiday season is one that many of us look forward to with such excitement and anticipation.
It is the time we get to relax, meet up with relatives and friends, as well as get to travel and explore places we haven’t been to before. After a year of hard work and seemingly endless toiling, the December holidays are always a welcome relief to us.
Since a lot of travel is involved over the holidays, the issue of pregnancy needs to be carefully taken into consideration.
Can a pregnant woman travel? Are there certain reasons she should not travel? Are all means of transport safe for her or are there those she should avoid? What if she has experienced some complications in her pregnancy before –can she still travel?
Well, I spoke to obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Stephen Mutiso of KNH about the do’s and don’ts of traveling during pregnancy. I share the insights he gave below:
Long Distance Travel by Road or Rail
Pregnant women who travel during the Christmas season should take some precautionary measures to safeguard their health and that of their unborn baby.
For those traveling long distance, they should be wary about the risk of blood clot formation, in what is called Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT). DVT occurs due to stasis of blood in the lower limbs for a long time. Traveling long distances causes prolonged stasis of blood which can cause clot formation. Blood clots could be fatal.
Although long distance travel is not contraindicated for healthy pregnant women, it is important to take certain precautions to reduce the risk of DVT.
Pregnant women who travel long distances by road or rail are therefore advised to take 30-minute breaks every 2 hours of travel. During the breaks, they should walk around to improve blood flow in the body, especially the legs.
How about Air Travel?
Air travel in pressurized airplanes for pregnant women is usually allowed up to 36 weeks. However, a doctor’s recommendation on a pregnant woman’s fitness to fly –even before 36 weeks is usually required by some airlines.
Just like road and rail travels, it is recommended that a pregnant woman traveling by air takes frequent breaks. This is for her to stretch her legs and improve blood circulation so a to prevent the formation of blood clots. Especially for flights that last many hours.
Keeping Yourself Hydrated
Adequate hydration is crucial while traveling,and more so for pregnant women. This is because lack of water in the body (dehydration) is a risk factor for clot formation. While traveling, it is advisable for her to hydrate frequently.
Can You Travel if You Have Experienced Some Pregnancy Complications?
It is not advisable for pregnant women who are already experiencing complications to travel. Some of the complications include; high blood pressure, rupture of membranes, premature labor and bleeding in pregnancy. But if at all she must travel, then she is advised to consult with her doctor before she does so.
How Far Can a Pregnant Woman Travel?
Pregnant women nearing their due date -usually from 36 weeks are not advised to travel far from the facility where they intend to deliver. This is attributed to the fact that labor can begin earlier than expected.
How about Alcohol in Pregnancy?
There is no doubt that consumption of alcoholic beverages is very common during festivities. However, it is important for expectant women to understand that alcohol is completely contraindicated in pregnancy and must be avoided.
Alcohol intake increases risk of miscarriage,and is harmful to the baby because it crosses through the placenta. In fact, fetal blood levels approximate those of the mother so if she has alcohol in her bloodstream, so does the baby. Alcohol consumption may cause a number of congenital malformations such as brain anomalies, low birth weight and mental retardation.
Since there is no ‘safe’ amount of alcohol one can take in pregnancy, it is better to just avoid it completely.
What Physical Activity Can You Participate In?
Rigorous and high impact exercises should be avoided. Activities such as walking and swimming are safe for the normal healthy pregnant woman. Sports like skiing, gymnastics, motorcycling, basketball, football, scuba and all high impact sports should be completely avoided for the safety of both mother and baby.
Traveling and camping at very high altitudes –generally of more than 10,000 feet above sea level should be avoided because of decreased oxygen pressures which can affect the baby and mother.
When engaging in safe exercises in pregnancy, the woman must ensure she remains adequately hydrated.
Keep Your Doctor’s Contacts Close By
It is very important to have the contacts (especially mobile phone number) of your gynecologist or antenatal care provider during this festive season. This is crucial especially when you get a problem away from your provider. Your gynecologist would be able to advise you. If it’s a problem that requires urgent attention, they can link you up with a colleague working in the area you are in.
If you don’t have contacts for your doctor, it’s advisable to visit a reputable hospital within your vicinity.
Read more from Maryanne on her Blog.