Travelling during pregnancy can be stressful, especially when you’re going to a country where health care, particularly prenatal care, is limited. Travel to these areas may increase your risk of contracting infectious diseases, insect-borne diseases, and food- and water-borne illnesses. Your body will also respond to travel and stress differently while you’re pregnant.
Before you travel, research the health care situation at your destination in case of an emergency. It’s also important to consider vaccinations, malaria prevention, and travel insurance when planning your trip. Make sure you understand the restrictions placed on pregnant travellers by airlines, cruise lines, and insurance companies. Discuss your travel plans with your physician and if possible, always travel with a companion.
Top tips for pregnant travellers
Pre-travel check-up and vaccinations
Your pre-travel check-up should include:
- A discussion about your destination, activities, accommodations and the sanitary conditions you will encounter
- An ultra-sound to make sure you have a normal pregnancy
- Tests to determine the immunities you have from previous vaccinations
- If needed, an up-date on routine immunizations (inactivated vaccines) such as Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis and Influenza. Inactivated vaccines are considered safe during pregnancy.
- Live attenuated vaccines such as Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Yellow Fever should not be given during pregnancy. Travel to Yellow Fever areas should be avoided during pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, delay conception until one month after receiving any live vaccines.
Travel medicine kit
Ask your physician to recommend items for your personal medical kit, including:
- Medications for gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea
- Personal prescription medications carried in the original container
- Copies of your medical records and a letter from your physician confirming your fitness to travel and your due date
- Insect repellents
- Sun screens
Always keep your personal medical kit in your carry-on luggage.
Did you know that you may not be covered by your insurance policy if you need emergency medical care for being pregnant? Many insurers have exclusions and limitations when it comes to pregnancy, which the insurance industry views as a risk to your health.
Here are some events that may not be covered by travel health insurance:
- Medical emergencies relating to your pregnancy
- Premature labour, delivery, or planned birth
- Routine pre-natal care
- High risk pregnancies or complications like pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes
- Medical care for your newborn
Do your research before booking your trip and call the insurance company if you have questions about how their policy applies to pregnant travellers. If you’re asked to fill out a medical questionnaire, disclose everything and ask your physician for assistance with filling in medical details. You can learn more about travel health insurance here.
Malaria is especially severe in pregnant women. Contracting malaria during pregnancy is an emergency and can have serious consequences for both mother and baby.
Avoid travel to malarious areas for the duration of your pregnancy. If travel is unavoidable, meet with your physician to discuss which suppressive regimen is best suited to your needs. This will depend on the area you are visiting and duration of your stay in the malarious area. Make sure to use meticulous anti-mosquito measures from dusk to dawn as the carrier of malaria is the nighttime-biting
Anopheles mosquito. This mosquito does not hum and you will not feel its bite – so you are vulnerable during your sleep.
Anti-mosquito measures include sleeping under a mosquito bed net, using insect repellent with DEET, staying indoors between dusk and dawn, and covering exposed skin with lightweight clothing. Repellents containing
up to 50% DEET are safe for use during pregnancy.
More key tips for pregnant travellers
- If you need to travel, the 2nd trimester is the best time to do so. Avoid travel after 36 weeks. Make sure you are aware of your airline’s pregnancy age cut off. Most use 36 weeks, but some use earlier. Bring a letter from your doctor regarding your due date in case your airline asks for it.
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time during long distance travel can increase the risk of blood clots in your legs, otherwise known as deep vein thrombosis. Book an aisle seat so that you can get up easily to stretch and use the bathroom. If travelling by car, make sure to map out service stations in advance so you can take breaks every one to two hours.
- Avoid sudden altitude elevations to areas above 2500 m as the oxygen levels are lower. If you are going to a high-altitude destination, take the time to ascend over a few days (3-5) to give your body ample time to adapt. Avoid strenuous exercise and stay hydrated.
- Avoid vigorous exercise, hot tubs, saunas, scuba diving, and sports that could cause injury or a fall such as waterskiing and skiing.
- Remember to stay hydrated. When you are pregnant, more water evaporates from your skin, especially if you are in a hot and humid climate, as heat enhances fluid loss.
- Be careful spending time in the sun. High pregnancy hormones can increase your chances of skin discoloration that may be permanent, so remember to put on ultra-strong sun screen of SPF 50 or higher. Stay in the shade and opt for long-sleeved, breathable clothing as much as possible.
- Food and water precautions are of utmost importance during pregnancy. Diarrhea must be avoided as it can cause dehydration, leading to miscarriage or shock due to the loss of electrolytes. Avoid uncooked or undercooked meats, fish, and seafood; unpasteurized dairy products; raw vegetables or fruits you cannot peel yourself; dairy-based sauces and mayonnaise. Make sure your drinking water is safe and that you are using safe water for brushing your teeth. If travel to rural or developing areas is unavoidable, your physician may prescribe an appropriate antibiotic to be used in case of diarrhea. Ask your physician about oral rehydration solutions for mild diarrhea.
Last reviewed and updated: December 11, 2020.
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