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Parent's Corner

Mom-To-Be on Board: Traveling During Pregnancy

By: Pamela Brill

It’s time for the annual summer vacation and for expectant women, it may mark the last occasion to enjoy some down time before motherhood. But with so much trepidation over travel these days, heading out for a getaway during your pregnancy may not exactly feel like a day at the beach.

With some helpful tips and suggestions from medical experts, pregnant women on the go can enjoy their time away and relax before their baby’s arrival.

Zika, Overseas Concerns

Arguably one of the hotter medical topics this year, the Zika virus has dominated the news with stories of possible birth defects, prompting pregnant women to reconsider taking a trip outside the United States. Per guidelines from the Center of Disease Control (CDC), traveling to countries where the virus has been shown to be epidemic should be avoided, including Central America, South America and select Caribbean islands.

Dr. Jeffrey Zweig, an obstetrician and author of Pregnancy is a Real Mother (Xlibris, 2015), advises expectant women to take the proper precautions. ““Zika virus infection has been detected in mainland United States, but those infected have brought the illness from endemic areas,” he notes. “If you must go to an endemic area, the pregnant patient should spray herself with mosquito repellent and cover her body and head with protective clothing, including…a hat that provides adequate shielding.”

For pregnant women traveling via airplane, going through body scanners at the airport may create some undue anxiety. According to Zweig, since the TSA replaced its X-ray imaging and scanning in 2013 with electromagnetic scanning, this level of security does not pose any risk for babies in utero. “Further…the low level of energy in the scanners should not put any women at an increased risk for cancer later in life,” he says.

Once onboard, pregnant passengers should make a point of moving about the cabin (when permitted) to stretch their legs. “Pregnant women in general have a slightly higher risk of developing a blood clot [so]…try and be as mobile as possible on the aircraft,” says Cheryl Zauderer, a certified nurse-midwife and author of Maternity Leave: A New Mother’s Guide to the First Six Weeks Postpartum (Praeclarus Press, 2016) (www.postpartumcare1.com). She recommends booking an aisle seat and, if possible, one with more legroom, making it easier to get up and out.

H2O to Go

Whether traveling by plane, car, boat or any other form of transportation, staying hydrated is essential for all expectant mothers. “During pregnancy, your blood volume is increasing, your body is building amniotic fluid and can also trigger contractions and/or pre-term later if you are dehydrated,” notes Zauderer. “Water also helps to absorb nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the placenta needs to nourish your baby.”

Extra water is especially vital during warmer months because of the body’s attempt to reduce excessive heat.  “The heat and humidity of summer causes sweating and loss of fluids through the mouth and lungs,” says Zweig. He recommends that pregnant women consume at least three large (32 oz.) bottles per day and even more during the third trimester to prevent preterm labor and contractions.

Healthy, Happy Travels

Experts agree that by following some general rules of thumb, moms-to-be can enjoy their vacation time with minimal fuss. Zauderer stresses the importance of wearing a seat belt at all times and taking short breaks when traveling by car. “Always check with your destination to make sure there are healthcare providers and/or medical facilities in case of an emergency,” she offers.

If you’ll be outdoors, Zweig advises using sunscreen particularly on your face, ears and feet, and wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and shoes. “Pregnant women should not travel during the last month of pregnancy unless a true emergency exists,” he says. If you must travel, play it safe and bring along any medical records from your OB.

And of course, don’t forget…to have a good time!