Advice for the pregnant traveller

It’s not uncommon for a woman who’s expecting a baby to go on vacation, knowing that the early months of motherhood will be filled with diaper changes, feedings and sleepless nights.

British Prime Minister David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron

TORONTO — It’s not uncommon for a woman who’s expecting a baby to go on vacation, knowing that the early months of motherhood will be filled with diaper changes, feedings and sleepless nights.

But there are a number of scenarios to keep in mind when travelling while pregnant, not the least of which is the possibility of an early delivery.

It recently happened to Samantha Cameron, wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was on holiday with her family in Cornwall when she gave birth Aug. 24 to a daughter — a baby who hadn’t been expected to arrive until September.

The caesarean delivery was at Royal Cornwall Hospital, and everything turned out well for mother and daughter Florence.

Dr. Michele Hakakha, co-author of Expecting 411, a new guide to pregnancy and childbirth, says travel advice for pregnant women varies depending on the mode of transportation and how far along they are.

“The one concern that is across the board for all trimesters and all pregnant women is sitting for long periods of time, whether that’s on a plane or a boat or in a car, and that’s the increased risk of developing a blood clot,” Hakakha, an ob-gyn in Beverly Hills, Calif., said in an interview.

She recommended that pregnant women get up and walk around periodically, and wear support stockings to help improve circulation.

“Typically if you’re pregnant, you have to go to the bathroom all the time anyway, so it’s usually not an issue,” she said.

“You have to pull over your car, or you have to get up from your airplane seat and move around.”

Pregnant women who flip through travel brochures pondering a cruise or flight need to ask questions about medical care and restrictions.

Most cruise lines won’t allow women to travel in their third trimester, Hakakha noted.

“Airlines will let pregnant women fly up to 36 weeks, which is four weeks before delivery. However individual ob-gyns may have different cutoffs.

“I typically let my patients fly up to about 32 weeks,” she said, adding that women should check with their own practitioners.

A woman with a normal pregnancy and no previous history of premature labour can travel up to and including the 36th week at Air Canada. Airline spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said any queries can be put to the airline’s medical desk.

Hakakha said there should be no travel on small planes or small boats after the second trimester.

“If something happens and you’re on a remote island or you’re in the middle of the ocean or you’re on a tiny plane where there’s not going to be anyone to help you, it’s a really tough situation,” she said.

“Trains and cars are fine. Usually in your third trimester, you want to stay pretty close to home, and that means that if you want to be within an hour or even an hour and a half, that’s probably fine.”

Almost daily, Hakakha said she gets asked about airport scanners.

The older airport scanners are really just “glorified metal detectors” and they’re completely safe, she said, and the new full body scanners being introduced are also fine.

Food is always an issue for pregnant women. Hakakha advised having healthy foods on hand.

“Your immune system is completely suppressed when you’re pregnant,” she explained.

“It’s the only time in your life you’re carrying foreign DNA in your body and you’re not rejecting it.

“And so in order for your body to do that, your immune system is suppressed and you are much more likely to develop food poisoning or contract things compared to people with you in the group that are eating the same thing.”

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