Pregnancy and travel
Most of the time, traveling while you are pregnant can be safe and enjoyable. However, it is still a good idea to talk to your health care provider before you plan your trip.
Prenatal care - travel
Most of the time, it is fine to travel while pregnant. As long as you are comfortable and safe, you should be able to travel. It is still a good idea to talk to your provider if you are planning a trip.
When you travel, you should:
- Eat as you normally do.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that isn't tight.
- Take crackers and juice with you to avoid nausea.
- Bring a copy of your prenatal care records with you.
- Get up and walk every hour. It will help your circulation and keep swelling down. Being inactive for long periods of time and being pregnant both increase your risk for blood clots in your legs and lungs. To lower your risk, drink plenty of fluids and move around often.
Get medical care right away if you have:
- Chest pain
- Leg or calf pain or swelling, especially in just one leg
- Shortness of breath
DO NOT take over-the-counter medicines or any non-prescribed medicines without talking to your provider. This includes medicine for motion sickness or bowel problems.
Travel by Land
When traveling by land:
- You should be on the road no more than 5 to 6 hours a day.
- Always wear your seatbelt. Place the lap belt under your belly and across your hips so that it fits snugly and comfortably. Put the shoulder strap between your breasts and across your shoulder.
- Always wear the lap shoulder seat belt strap when traveling while pregnant.
- If you have an accident, check with your provider to see if you and your baby are fine. Unless you have a serious injury in an accident, your baby will likely not be harmed. Still, check with your provider to be on the safe side.
- While on the road, take breaks often and walk around. This will help your circulation and can prevent blood clots.
Travel by Air
When traveling by air:
- In the United States, pregnant women are allowed to fly during the first 36 weeks of their pregnancy.
- Book an aisle seat to make it easier to walk around and get to the bathroom.
- Wear layers of clothing so you can change as needed for comfort.
- Get up and walk at least once an hour. This will help your circulation and can prevent blood clots.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Women with health problems may need extra oxygen when flying. Talk to your provider before you travel to see if you will need extra oxygen.
Travel by Sea
When traveling by sea:
- If you have never been on a cruise, it may not be the best time to go.
- Travel by sea may cause motion sickness or nausea. It may feel worse than normal if you are pregnant.
- If you do decide to go on a cruise, find out what kind of medical care will be on the ship. Also ask how the cruise ship responds to medical emergencies.
Talk to your provider if you are planning a trip out of the country. Plan ahead to allow time for any shots or medicines you may need. When you travel, take a copy of your prenatal care record with you.
Traveling to high altitudes, like the mountains, may cause problems during pregnancy. Higher altitudes have lower air pressures and less oxygen. Your body and the baby will have to adjust. It is best for all pregnant women who live at low altitudes to avoid traveling over 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) during pregnancy.
If you live at a high altitude, it is safe for you to stay there. Your pregnancy will adapt to the lower oxygen levels.
The Zika virus
Protection from the Zika virus during pregnancy is especially important.
- Zika is a virus passed to humans by the bite of infected mosquitoes. A Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a rare condition called microcephaly. It occurs when the brain does not grow as it should in the womb or after birth and causes babies to be born with a smaller-than-normal head.
- The Zika virus can be passed from a mother to her baby in the uterus or at the time of birth. People with Zika can spread the disease to their sex partners before symptoms begin, while they have symptoms, and after symptoms end.
- If you are pregnant, you should not plan to travel to areas with Zika. If you or your partner has traveled in an area with Zika, talk to your provider about whether you should be tested. If you live in an area with Zika, talk to your provider all during your pregnancy.
- Areas where Zika occurs are likely to change. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) website -- www.cdc.gov/zika.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Pregnant women. www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy/protect-yourself.html. Updated November 16, 2018. Accessed December 26, 2018.
Freedman DO. Protection of travelers. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 323.
Mackell SM, Anderson S. The pregnant and breastfeeding traveler. In: Keystone JS, Freedman DO, Kozarsky PE, Connor BA, eds. Travel Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2013:chap 22.
Thomas SJ, Endy TP, Rothman AL, Barrett AD. Flaviviruses. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 155.