At some point, every pregnant woman wonders if it is safe to travel. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) suggests that the best time to travel is between the 14th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, or the second trimester. The mother-to-be is usually over her morning sickness and tiredness by then. It is also the time during the pregnancy when complications are least likely to occur. However, it is possible to be safe while traveling during the 34th week of pregnancy.
Travel During Third Trimester
Traveling at week 34 and beyond is especially risky because it is very close to the mother’s due date only six weeks away. Complications like preterm labor are likely to occur at this time. In addition, labor and delivery can occur while on the road, over the water or in the air. Without the proper professionals and facilities nearby, the infant and mother can suffer serious complications.
Longer Trips Bring Higher Risk
On trips of more than four hours, a pregnant woman can suffer a condition called deep vein thrombosis from being seated too long, according to the ACOG. In this condition, a blood clot forms in the veins of the body, most commonly in the legs. The clot can quickly move to the lungs in a potentially fatal condition known as pulmonary embolism. Preterm labor can result in delivery in unsanitary, ill-equipped conditions. In addition, the delivery could come with complications like breach or another abnormal positioning of the baby, fetal distress (lack of oxygen to the baby), prolapsed cord (umbilical cord is delivered before the baby), hemorrhaging and infection. All of these require medical intervention, which might not be readily available when traveling.
Don't Believe the Travel Myths
There are a few myths about travel during the third trimester. It has been said that the cabin pressure and/or radiation emitted by a plane can harm the mother and fetus. This is not true: A healthy mother in a healthy pregnancy is unaffected by both. Another flying myth is that it is against the law to fly in the third trimester. Although some airlines have enacted policies prohibiting pregnant women from boarding in their last month of pregnancy, these rules are voluntary. There also is no law requiring a woman in her last trimester to have a note from her doctor while traveling by any mode of transportation.
Some Women Shouldn't Travel
Women with gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, a tendency toward blood clots, or those carrying multiple fetuses should not travel in their 34th week of pregnancy unless their obstetrician okays it as such pregnancies are considered high risk. The obstetrician might suspend travel for these women for the entire third trimester.
Tips for Third Trimester Travel
To prevent complications that can arise while traveling during your 34th week of pregnancy, plan your trip with the help of your obstetrician.
- Know where the nearest medical facilities are located all along your route.
- Use a seat belt, but lift your belly and place the lap belt across the top of your thighs. Wearing the seatbelt across your baby bulge can severely injure or kill your child should there be an accident.
- Slide your seat in an airbag-equipped car as far back as possible or sit in the back seat to avoid risk of injury.
- Pack ob/gyn-approved remedies for what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calls common pregnancy discomforts, including constipation, hemorrhoids, indigestion and heartburn.
- Travel with at least one adult companion to help in case of an emergency.
- Plan to get up and walk for at least 10 minutes every hour to prevent blood clots.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing on your trip and support your bump with a belly band or small pillow for comfort during long, bumpy flights.