Taking that last great trip before parenthood

2.19.10: Overseas travel while pregnant – Is it safe?


Can you travel safely during pregnancy? That’s what Jeremy wants to know. He and his wife are planning a trip to Greece when she’s 33-weeks pregnant. It’s their first baby, conceived with IVF (in vitro fertilization), and she’s healthy. Jeremy read last year’s post about travel during pregnancy but wants to know if it’s safe for his wife. I can answer this with two words – Yes! Probably!

First the probably: I’m assuming Jeremy’s wife has no complications with this pregnancy. Does IVF make travel any riskier than with a pregnancy conceived the old fashioned way? Not at this stage. There’s some evidence IVF is associated with greater risk of miscarriage early on but at 33 weeks? Naah. It’s cool. Your baby is well-developed and miscarriage isn’t a risk anymore. So, what else is there to worry about at 33 weeks? Blood clots, dehydration and premature delivery. These risks go up a little with long airplane rides and travel.

Why blood clots? The fancy medical term is deep vein thrombosis. If you sit for a long time and don’t walk around and get the blood moving, that blood can pool in the legs. Add a big heavy uterus to squish those same blood vessels and you have even less circulation. The cure – get up and walk around every hour.

Dehydration? Travel doesn’t always lend to great nutrition or hydration. You’re in a strange place. You can’t just go to the fridge or faucet. You go too long without food or water. The cure? Carry a water bottle and fill it up once you’re past security. Ask for water on the plane. Buy water in the airport when you land. Just make it a priority.

Premature labor? Dehydration and fatigue can cause contractions. Usually they’re no big deal. Drink more water, rest and they’ll probably go away. And if they don’t? On the off-chance your wife starts contracting regularly, head to the emergency room and they’ll take fine care of her. Greece does an excellent job taking care of their mothers and babies. Their maternal and newborn mortality rates are way better than in the United States.

Now for the Yes! I talked to OB/GYN Desiree Bley, MD in Portland, Ore. to get her thoughts about travel during pregnancy. “33-weeks is a great time to travel. It gets tougher after 36-weeks due to size, fatigue and the generally miserable state of being that pregnant. I did it my self when I was pregnant. I travelled back and forth to Germany a couple times. As long as you get up, move around and pee a lot, it’s fine. It’s going to be a heck of a lot tougher once you’ve got children though not impossible. Make it your last hurrah as a couple without kids. You’ll never be this free again until they’re off to college.”

My friend Suzanne wanted to do an overseas trip when she was pregnant and her family pressured her out of it. “They were sure something terrible would happen to me. It was my first baby, their first grandchild and they wanted to wrap me in cotton and keep me away from all risks. If I’d gone, they’d have taken all the fun out of it by worrying. Now that I’ve got a baby, I know I’ll never travel with just carry-on luggage again. I wish I’d gone.”

I asked my husband for his opinion. He pampered me through four pregnancies and is as much an authority as any man. “Good God, go. Just make sure you, Jeremy, handle all the luggage, make sure her bed is comfortable, and that she has plenty of time to rest in the sun with a cool drink. Then revel in this chance to be alone together for the last time without having to make special arrangements. You’ll remember it forever.” Then, he and I reminisced about a trip to Mexico we took with all our kids. The luggage, strollers, porta-cribs, car-seats, diapers, toys and the time the baby’s pool-diaper gapped dangerously. He and I scrambled to collect the escaping contents while tossing toddlers out of the water as if there was a shark infestation. Then the ethical dilemma: Do we admit to the staff that our kid just crapped in the pool or do we celebrate that no one but us saw it? Let’s just say, don’t underestimate the simplicity of travel without children.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.