Updated: Jan 09, 2024
Traveling while pregnant can be difficult due to risks and challenges involved, but you can make it safer through careful preparation. One of the reasons why pregnant women fear traveling is their prevalence of certain infections and the risk of developing severe complications that can affect childbirth. You can learn more about any possible risks by discussing your travel plans with a health care provider in a hospital or a travel clinic six months before your departure date.
Before planning any travel, it’s crucial for pregnant women to consult with their healthcare provider. They can assess your health and the health of your pregnancy, and advise whether it’s safe for you to fly. They can also provide tips on how to stay comfortable and address any potential health concerns.
Different airlines have varying policies regarding pregnant travellers. Most allow pregnant women to fly up to a certain point in their pregnancy, typically up to 28-36 weeks, depending on the airline and whether the pregnancy is high-risk. It’s essential to check with the airline and understand their specific policies, including any documentation they might require, such as a letter from your healthcare provider.
Long-haul flights, such as those to Canada, can be particularly challenging. Sitting for extended periods can increase the risk of developing blood clots, so it’s important to take measures to reduce this risk, such as wearing compression stockings and walking around the cabin periodically.
Women should also be careful about the vaccines they take during pregnancy. They should avoid live vaccines like measles, mumps and rubella, but inactivated vaccines like hepatitis B are safe to use.
Make sure that you get advice from your health care provider before getting vaccinated while pregnant. The health care will help you make an informed decision by evaluating factors such as your health status, the length of your trip, the destination country and the risk of contracting the disease.
When booking your flight to Canada, consider the timing of your trip. The second trimester is often considered the best time to fly, as the risks of common pregnancy complications are lower. You are at a lower risk if you travel between the 18th and 24th weeks of pregnancy because most of the obstetric emergencies are common in the first and third trimesters. Health care providers can help you make the right travel decision if you share some of the travel details with them. The information that you should provide includes the reason for travel, the length of the trip, the destinations in your trip, the planned activities, Any underlying medical condition or pregnancy complications, and the availability of medical care in the destination country
Additionally, aim for direct flights to avoid the hassle of layovers and reduce total travel time.
Selecting the right seat can significantly impact your comfort during the flight. An aisle seat can be more convenient, allowing you to easily get up and move around or use the restroom. Some pregnant travellers may also prefer extra legroom seats for additional comfort.
Pack a carry-on with essential items to keep you comfortable during the flight. This includes snacks, a water bottle to stay hydrated, prenatal vitamins, any medications, a travel pillow, and a blanket. Also, carry important medical documents, including your prenatal records and health insurance information. You can pack additional items such as haemorrhoid cream, yeast infection medications and prenatal vitamins to supplement the items listed in the travel health kit. Your health care professionals will advise you more about the things you may need according to your health needs.
Make sure that you have the right travel health insurance cover if you have to travel when pregnant. Have a closer look at your insurance policy and what it covers because most of the insurance policies avoid covering pregnancy-related conditions and other exceptional cases like hospital care for premature babies.
To stay comfortable during the flight, dress in loose, comfortable clothing and wear comfortable shoes. Use pillows to support your back and elevate your legs if possible. A safety belt could cause health complications if not properly used. Ensure that you carefully place the straps above and below your stomach if you are using a diagonal shoulder strap with a lap belt. The safest way to use a lap belt if it is the only option available is by fastening at the pelvic area, below the stomach.
To manage health risks, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, avoid caffeine, and eat light, nutritious meals or snacks. Walk around the cabin every hour or so to promote circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots. Do simple stretches in your seat, focusing on your legs and lower back.
The most common risk for pregnant women during travel is developing blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). You can reduce the risk of DVT by stretching your legs while seated and by regularly getting up and walking around. Also, ensure that you have selected an aisle seat if possible and remember to wear loose clothing and comfortable footwear. Your doctor may even give you additional recommendations, such as wearing compression stockings, to reduce your risks.
Pregnant women who suspect that they may experience motion sickness during travel can use some of the medications used to treat vomiting and nausea during pregnancy. Speak to your doctor to learn more about the use of these medications.
Pregnant women should avoid altitudes above 12000 feet, and 8200 feet for high-risk pregnancies and women in their late stages of pregnancy. You should always remember that no doctor or medical facility is available in most of the high-altitude destinations. Remember to inform your medical practitioner if you plan to visit a high-altitude destination during your travel.
Be prepared to manage common pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, heartburn, and swelling during the flight. Ginger chews or peppermint tea can help with nausea, while antacids can be used for heartburn. Elevating your feet can help reduce swelling.
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms during travel: Vaginal bleeding, dehydration, persistent diarrhoea or vomiting, abdominal pains, or cramps. Other complications to look out for include contractions, passing tissue or clots, excessive leg swelling or pain, severe headaches or visual problems, and if your water breaks. Ensure that you see a healthcare provider and inform them about your recent travel if you experience any of the above symptoms after returning to your home country.
You should be cautious with how you handle food and should not ignore safe food and water precautions when pregnant. Most of the water and food-borne illnesses can be more severe for pregnant women and may extend the risk to the unborn baby. Some of these diseases include hepatitis E, toxoplasmosis and listeriosis.
Remember to regularly wash your hands when handling food and when eating, plus the other hand washing hygiene practices like washing hands after using the bathroom, after having contact with animals and sick people, after changing diapers, and many more.
It is also important to boil or disinfect drinking water if it is not in a commercially sealed bottle. Avoid extended use of iodine water purifiers because it can lead to the thyroid problems for the unborn baby and new-borns. You should also avoid raw/undercooked meat and fish (including shellfish) as well as any unpasteurized dairy products.
Once you arrive in Canada, give yourself time to adjust to the new environment. Be mindful of the climate and time zone changes, and try to rest as much as possible to avoid fatigue.
The recreational activities you plan to engage in during your visit to Canada should be a subject of discussion with your health care provider, as some of them are not commendable or may need additional precautions. Protect yourself from insect-related diseases by reducing the chances of getting insect bites through the use of bed nets, protective clothing and insect repellents. You should also avoid coming into contact with animals like dogs, birds, monkeys, bats, rodents and snakes.
Familiarize yourself with how to access healthcare in Canada, should you need it. Canada has a high standard of medical care, but healthcare access for non-residents can be limited and expensive. Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers pregnancy-related conditions.
If you’re traveling to Canada specifically for maternity care, make sure you have all the necessary arrangements in place before you leave. This includes confirming appointments with healthcare providers and understanding the costs and coverage of care.
Consider your return journey as well. As pregnancy progresses, the risks associated with flying can increase. Ensure you have approval from your healthcare provider for the return flight and that it’s within the airline’s allowed travel period for pregnant passengers.
Flying to Canada while pregnant is certainly feasible, but it requires careful planning and consideration. By consulting with healthcare providers, understanding airline policies, and taking measures to stay comfortable and reduce health risks, pregnant travellers can have a safe and enjoyable journey. Remember, every pregnancy is different, so it’s essential to consider your personal health and circumstances when making travel decisions. With the right preparations, flying to Canada during pregnancy can be a smooth and stress-free experience.