Travel During Pregnancy- A Comprehensive Checklist

 

Traveling during pregnancy can be safe if you take all the right precautions and do a little extra planning before packing your bags. I would not travel overseas after 24 weeks or domestically after 36 weeks. Airlines will carry you after these points, however.  A large number of patients are required to undertake domestic and overseas travel for their occupation. Many families have booked their dream overseas holiday prior to falling pregnant and don’t wish to lose vast sums of money in cancelling their bookings! Following is a checklist of some of the factors that you need to consider before planning to travel during pregnancy:

1. Speak to me prior to your departure at one of your visits.

You should consult me to have a brief on your current medical condition and any upcoming tests that you need to get done. If your pregnancy is high-risk, you need to be extra careful before planning to travel or defer it altogether. Depending on the location that you wish to visit, you also need to consult your doctor about the kind of vaccines you may need – check with your GP that they are essential and safe.

2. Prenatal tests

Some important prenatal tests are scheduled at given periods during pregnancy. For instance, Down Syndrome Screening is conducted between 10 and 14 weeks. Some women need extra follow up tests – CVS or amniocentesis at 12-13 weeks. All women require a 19 week ultrasound and blood tests at 24 – 28 weeks for diabetes screening. Other important tests include administration of anti – D for rhesus negative mothers (at 28 and 34 weeks) and group B strep testing (at 35 – 37 weeks).

Consider the scheduling of all these tests and plan it out accordingly before packing your bags for travel. Organising testing overseas is difficult, expensive and stressful. We have had patients recently complete different tests in South Africa, Switzerland, The United Kingdom, USA, China and Thailand. In no case was the process simple!!

3. Gather all the important information

While traveling during pregnancy, hope for the best but plan for the worst. You need to maintain a list of all important phone numbers and names that you might require in case of an emergency.

If away for a significant period of time I will attempt to organise an accredited colleague who can continue your care until you return. You should be aware of the local obstetric hospitals and have a basic understanding of the foreign medical system in place. Consider the quality of medical services available at your destination. Consider the small possibility that because of an unpredictable event you may require delivery or prolonged hospitalisation away from Australia. This is extraordinarily stressful and potentially bankrupting. You must take a copy of your antenatal card with you. If you forget, ring or email the practice and we will immediately forward a copy.

4. Travelling while pregnant

Consider how you feel at the time you travel – someone in the third trimester will be tired, have swollen ankles, reduced energy levels, require clean toilet facilities and a nice bed. Never travel alone if possible. Pack appropriate comfortable clothing and footwear. If flying for more than 4 hours purchase anti thrombotic stockings which have been correctly fitted to your legs. Discuss with me the need for aspirin / blood thinning injections. Stay hydrated – preferably with water. Move regularly about and follow airline instructions on exercise / leg stretching. Aim for a great seat on the plane – an aisle seat near the toilet should be considered a prized asset. The cheaper airlines (Scoot / Air Asia) have amazing deals on skybeds in their premium economy sections.  Have someone else do the heavy lifting of your wheeled luggage.

You need to prepare a checklist of all the medications that are necessary like prescription medications, painkillers recommended by your doctor, home remedies, and your prenatal vitamins. It is also recommended that you do not move your prescribed medications to other bottles, jars or wrappers so that if your bags are searched, the authorities will know that a medical professional had prescribed the medications.

5. Health Insurance is essential for all overseas travel during pregnancy.

You need to know if your private health insurance (BUPA, HCF etc.) will cover any complications or treatment regarding pregnancy that you might face during travel.

6. Travel Insurance is essential for all overseas travel during pregnancy.

Travel insurance is essential when travelling overseas. The pertinent points to consider are your destination, your gestation and pre-existing pregnancy conditions. Shop around, but choose a popular reputable provider. Engaging in a lengthy dispute process upon your return will not be something to look forward to. As an example, Covermore Insurance will NOT COVER YOU if you are further along than 26 weeks pregnant.

7. Airline Policies regarding travel.

I would not recommend domestic travel after 36 weeks and overseas travel after 24 weeks. All of the airlines (even Jetstar and Qantas) have slightly different conditions of carriage for their pregnant patients. We will happily provide the medical certificate mentioned below.

Qantas Policy:

c) Pregnancy:

If you are pregnant, the following precautions must be observed.

For travel after the first 28 weeks of your pregnancy: you need to carry a certificate or letter from a registered medical practitioner or registered midwife confirming:

  • the estimated date of delivery
  • whether it is a single or multiple pregnancy; and
  • that there are no complications with your pregnancy

For flights of four hours or more:

  • if you are having no complications with your pregnancy you can travel up to the end of the 36th week of your pregnancy for single pregnancies or up to the end of the 32nd week for multiple pregnancies (for example, twins)
  • medical clearance is required if you are having complications with your pregnancy

For flights of less than four hours:

  • if you are having no complications with your pregnancy you can travel up to the end of the 40th week of your pregnancy for single pregnancies and up to the end of the 36th week for multiple pregnancies (for example, twins)
  • Medical clearance is required if you are having complications with your pregnancy

If you wish to travel within seven days after delivery, medical clearance is required. Infants cannot travel for 48 hours after delivery and need medical clearance to travel between three and seven days after delivery.

Please Note:

  • We do not represent that travel is safe for you at any particular point during your pregnancy. You must seek advice from your own medical practitioner prior to your flight. The periods referred to above are only our minimum requirements
  • Some countries place limitations on the entry of non-national pregnant women. Check with the relevant embassy or consulate before you travel to confirm any further limitations.

 

Useful links:

  1. http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/conditions-carriage-full/global/en#jump3
  2. http://www.jetstar.com/au/en/planning-and-booking/in-flight-health#pregnancy
  3. http://www.airasia.com/ask/template.do?id=82
  4. http://babyology.com.au/maternity/bali-babymoon-birth-sparks-pregnancy-travel-warning.html
  5. http://www.covermore.com.au/pregnancy-cover?gclid=Cj0KEQjwidKiBRCevbT6yeqPrJQBEiQA1iM2WZXEvWu5B49P9ia_N9RlmB3l8Dt2o0umP7pAKKad_vwaAtyl8P8HAQ
  6. http://drmatthewwilson.com.au/
  7. http://www.ranzcog.edu.au/editions/doc_view/693-travel-and-pregnancy-and-immunisation-of-the-pregnant-woman-bob-kass.html
  8. https://www.facebook.com/Dr.MatthewWilsonNSW?ref=br_tf