Pregnant and travelling

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

Travelling during pregnancy is usually possible, but extra preparations and precautions are required. Choose your destination carefully, inform about the health risks in that area and only travel to areas with reliable medical facilities nearby. Discuss your travel plans well in advance of departure (at least six to eight weeks) with your doctor or a doctor in a specialised travel clinic.

Prevention

When to travel

The best period to travel is between 16 and 28 weeks.

There is still a risk of miscarriage during the first trimester and morning sickness in combination with motion sickness could result in dehydration, particularly in tropical temperatures.

The risk of other complications increases during the last trimester and travelling becomes more uncomfortable.

Flying

Normally you can fly for up to 36 weeks. From 28 weeks onwards, a medical certificate with the probable date of delivery is usually required. The guidelines vary from airline to airline. Please check the guidelines of the airline you will be flying with.

Infections

You are more susceptible to infections during pregnancy and severe infections can induce a miscarriage.

This applies particularly to a number of infections that occur all over the world like listeria, flu and hepatitis E.  But also to a number of tropical infections.

Some infections that occur all over the world can cause abnormalities in the unborn child, such as toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and rubella.

Therefore, you should follow the general measures to prevent infections, but avoid prolonged (more than 3 weeks) use of iodine drops to disinfect water (chlorine preparations and ORS are no problem).

Strictly follow the mosquito-repellent measures. The following repellents may be used during pregnancy. Wash the product off when it is no longer needed:

Malaria

  • Pregnant women are more susceptible to malaria: during pregnancy and there is also an increased risk of having a more complicated course.
  • Strictly follow the mosquito-repellent measures.
  • In regions with a moderate malaria risk (orange), the use of malaria tablets is indicated. Most malaria tablets may be used during pregnancy.
  • Avoid travel to regions with a high risk of malaria (red or dark red).

Zika

  • Zika is a viral infection that can cause abnormalities in the unborn child.
  • Learn how to protect yourself against infection with the zikavirus.

Vaccinations

Most vaccines may be administered during pregnancy and during breastfeeding.

Some vaccines are specifically recommended during pregnancy: whooping cough and  flu vaccine.

Live attenuated vaccines usually may not be administered during pregnancy. The only exception is the vaccine against yellow fever. This vaccine may be administered during the pregnancy if there is a real risk.

Childbirth

Make sure that the birth always takes place in a country where reliable medical facilities are available.

Check if transfusion blood tested, to avoid infections (such as HIV) in case a  blood transfusion is needed.

Travel assistance insurance

Ensure that you have good cover for travel assistance insurance.

Check that any problems resulting from your pregnancy are not excluded by the insurance.

Climate

Extreme temperatures are not tolerated well during pregnancy.

In hot climates, sleep in a room with air-conditioning and avoid intense exertion.

High altitude

Ensure that you have extra acclimatisation nights to prevent altitude sickness.

Avoid intense exertion at altitude.

Avoid sleeping above 3000 metres.

Deep vein thrombosis

Pregnancy has a higher risk of deep vein  thrombosis following long trips by bus or aeroplane.

Vaginal fungal infections and/or urinary tract infections

Discuss with your doctor whether it is necessary to take treatment for vaginal fungal infections and/or urinary tract infections with you.

Desire for pregnancy

The same measures apply if you want to become pregnant shortly before, during or after travelling.

Pregnancy should preferably be postponed to one month after returning from a (sub)tropical country or three months after returning from a country with Zika.

In case of symptoms

Seek medical advice if you suffer any symptoms.

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