Travel During Pregnancy

Going to New York

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I've been out of touch with readers' questions this past month because I've been so absorbed traveling and writing about my trip to Peru with CARE. I still have the travel bug though, so I thought I'd start back to normal blogging by writing about travel during pregnancy. Kelsey wrote and wonders if it will be safe to fly from Texas to New York when she's eight months pregnant. She's four months along now and feels fine but wonders what's safe. I'm headed to New York myself next week for CARE's screening of A Powerful Noise—a documentary about three women in three countries, making big changes in the world. Check out my blog post about it and follow the link for a screening near you.

Good question, Karla. Back in the old days, airlines and doctors were a lot stricter about travel. Back in the really old days, women weren't even allowed to leave their houses. That's why due dates are sometimes referred to as the EDC—Estimated Date of Confinement; as in confined and secluded within their own home, not to be seen in public. Thank God those days are over.

For most pregnant women, travel is safe during all stages of pregnancy as long as you don't have complications. Obviously, if labor is imminent or you've been prescribed bed rest, have premature contractions, more than one baby, bleeding issues or any other concern, you're probably best off staying home. If you're a normal, healthy woman who just wants to go to New York—by all means go. They have doctors and hospitals in New York. If you get in a pickle, they'll take care of you. I wouldn't advise traveling to the South Pole, Kalahari desert or any location that can only be reached by camel-back and where there are no medical services but other than that'…Go.

Here's the thing: there's Safe and then there's Comfortable. The American Pregnancy Association lays out some guidelines: Note the part about narrow aisles, tiny bathrooms and turbulence. You might not think those are important details at four months, Kelsey, but at eight? They're important details.

Most airlines allow pregnant women to travel through their eighth month. Traveling during the ninth month is usually allowed if there's permission from your health care provider.

  • Most airlines have narrow aisles and smaller bathrooms, which makes it challenging to walk and more uncomfortable when using the restroom. Turbulence can shake the plane so make sure you're holding on to the seat backs while navigating the aisle.

  • Choose an aisle seat that will allow you to get to the bathroom and stretch your legs easily.

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists add a couple more:

  • Planes of major airlines are pressurized, so the air in the cabin has more oxygen than the air outside. Many private planes are not pressurized. It's best to avoid altitudes higher than about 7,000 feet in small planes.
  • Don't worry about walking through the metal detector at the airport security check. It won't harm you or your baby.

    Here's a list of travel tips appropriate for car, train, plane or boat:

    • See your doctor before you plan to travel late in pregnancy. Take a copy of your health record with you.
    • In case of emergency, ask your doctor for the name and phone number of a doctor where you are going to travel.
    • Keep your travel plans easy to change. Problems can come up at any time. Buy travel insurance to cover tickets and deposits that can't be refunded.
    • While en route, try to walk around about every hour. Stretching your legs will lessen the risk of blood clots and make you more comfortable. It also will decrease the amount of swelling in your ankles and feet.
    • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. You may want to wear support or pressure stockings.
    • Carry light snacks with you to help prevent nausea.
    • A balanced and healthy diet during your trip will boost your energy and keep you feeling good. Be sure to get plenty of fiber to ease constipation, a common travel (and pregnancy) problem.
    • Drink plenty of fluids to help prevent urinary tract infections. Take a bottle of water or some juice with you.
    • Don't take any medication not prescribed for you., including motion-sickness pills, laxatives, diarrhea remedies, or sleeping pills, before checking with your doctor.
    • Get plenty of sleep, and rest often.
    • Stretch your back muscles from time to time.
    • Don't do too much. It's tempting to squeeze in as many sights as you can, but it's vital to adjust your pace when you are pregnant.

    Finally, here's my last word on travel: have a great time Kelsey. Fully enjoy this time with your husband without a baby in tow. Traveling with kids is it's own adventure and most of the time, a ton of fun but it's not as easy as kid-free travel and it's way less romantic.

    Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to 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.