Tips for Travelling While Pregnant

Many thanks to Where’s Sharon for her amazing stories and tips about traveling pregnant through Asia. For more great tips check out our Pregnant Travels section. 

There is no reason to stop travelling during a healthy pregnancy.

I have been lucky (and one time unlucky) enough to travel quite a few times while pregnant.  Some were just short domestic trips to see family; others were long haul to Asia, one with a one year old in tow.  Travel is almost always an awesome experience, and if you are having a complication free pregnancy, there is no reason that travel has to stop.  It does require slightly more planning though.

Below are some of my personal thoughts and tips about travelling while pregnant.

Timing is everything!!

If at all possible, plan travel for the second trimester.  Ideally, I’d recommend booking any travel reasonably last minute, so you can see how you are feeling.  I’d especially recommend this for first time parents or people who are planning to book a trip when they are not pregnant yet, but may be.  If you have never been pregnant before, it is so hard to judge how you will feel, not just physically but mentally about travel.  For some people, pregnancy is no big deal, and they don’t find life much harder than at any other time.  For others, pregnancy really can turn your whole world upside down.  Every pregnancy is also different, so even a prior experience can make it hard to judge.

In general, you are more likely to feel ill and exhausted in the first trimester, and exhausted, uncomfortable and like a beached whale in the third trimester.  The second trimester is definitely the best time to travel.  Usually energy levels are at their highest at this time, and it’s less likely that you will have any medical problems.

My first pregnancy, I had two trips to Asia during my first trimester.  They were booked before I got pregnant, and that was a mistake.  The first trip, to Borneo, was not so bad as it was very early on, so I only had all day sickness start on my last day.  I was still exhausted though, and so so worried that I would do something to endanger the pregnancy, that it kind of ruined my enjoyment.

My second trip was to Bali around the 9 week mark.  I have never felt so ill in all my life. It was horrible.  I only spent one day outside the room (and only because we had a day trip to Yogyakarta booked).  I pretty much cried all the way home on the plane as I felt so bad and uncomfortable.  It was a waste of money and time.  We should have tried to move the trip back to a bit later in my pregnancy.

Conversely, in my second pregnancy, we went to Thailand and Malaysia with our one year old in my second trimester.  Such a difference!!  I would have a nap when my daughter was napping, and we took it fairly easy in general. It was great!! This trip was awesome, and I’m glad we took the time to have that quality family time and get over our fear of international travel with a child, before the craziness of two children started.

Exploring Prambanan in Indonesia 2009 at 9 weeks pregnant

Seek medical advice and research medical facilities in your destination

This should be obvious, but talk to your healthcare provider before you leave.  My obstetrician had no problems with me travelling, and didn’t even have any advice, but it was good for my peace of mind.  Make sure you take your doctor’s and hospital’s phone numbers with you, and ask for a letter saying your due date and that you are safe to travel.

This is because many airlines have rules about travel in pregnancy.  They will have a maximum gestation that you are allowed to travel – they don’t want you going into labour in the air!  Even if you are nowhere near this gestation, it is a good idea to have a letter.  I was only 20 weeks on my trip to Malaysia and the Air Asia staff did hassle me for a letter when I was boarding the airplane.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have one.  I think I am lucky they weren’t the check in staff as I think I may have been in trouble.  They didn’t seem to know what to do since I was already at the plane, and they probably couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of refusing me entry, so it was fine.  I made sure my (reasonably small) bump was hidden as possible on our next flight though!!

Something I found good for my peace of mind was researching medical facilities in my destination.  I wrote down the best places for me to go if I had an issue.  I also took this into account when I worked out where we would travel to.  I personally didn’t want to travel anywhere where I wasn’t satisfied that the medical attention would be at a high level.  Don’t make assumptions about where these places might be though.  Many might assume the places in Asia I went are a bad idea, but there are some great medical facilities in Asia – places like Malaysia and Thailand actually attract medical tourism.

I also recommend researching any health problems at your destination that you may want to avoid while pregnant.  For example, I made sure I didn’t travel to areas with a malaria risk, in part because repellent with DEET is not safe while pregnant.

Get travel insurance that covers pregnancy if at all possible.  You never know what might happen.

Sharon in Sepilok, Borneo in 2009 at 5 weeks pregnant. She always felt cold in the early months of her pregnancy even in tropical Borneo!

Take it easy!

Pregnancy is not the best time to climb Kilimanjaro.  Or really anything too strenuous.  This is the time to travel at a more relaxed pace.

Plan for plenty of rest.  Nanna naps are great.  Early nights can feel like a must.  Make sure there is time in your itinerary for rest days should you need them.

If you usually travel on the cheap, this is a good time to budget a bit more money and treat yourself.  You are probably going to spend more time in your room, so it’s nice if it’s reasonably comfortable.  It’s also good to be able to spend more money on food. Usually, I love eating street food, but when pregnant, this can worry me even though I’ve never (touch wood) had an issue before.  It is also the time to take a suitcase, rather than a big backpack.  You’ve got enough to carry in your belly without that, and it is really easy to injure yourself while pregnant.

Easy tips to remember

  • Aisle seats are best on planes – easier access to toilet and it’s easier to get to your belongings.
  • Try to avoid flying with another kid on your lap while pregnant.  The worst flight of my life was while I was 18 weeks pregnant with number 2 and I had to fly alone with a massive one year old on my lap.  It was only for an hour, but the flight was full, she wouldn’t stay still and it was hellish!
  • Drink lots of water, especially if you are in a hotter place than usual.  I freaked myself out one night in Thailand when I started getting lots of contractions. With hindsight, I think this was because I was a bit dehydrated – even though I felt like I was drinking water constantly.
  • Carry round snacks with you.  Snacks are a pregnant lady’s best friend!
20 weeks pregnant in a hotel room in Thailand with 1yo daughter in 2011

Most importantly, relax and have fun!

Life is about to get crazy, so enjoy yourself and travel as much as you can while you have one less kid to worry about!!  Pregnancy can be hard, but babies are generally far easier in than out. There really isn’t much more to worry about than if you were at home, so try not to let “what ifs” cloud your thinking.   With a bit of thought and research and some good timing, there is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy travel as much as you do at other times.

This post is by Sharon from Where’s Sharon?, a blog about an Australian family’s adventures and thoughts about exploring the world with two little ones in tow – the good, the bad and the (hopefully not too) ugly.  

2 thoughts on “Tips for Travelling While Pregnant”

  1. I remain dubious. Last I checked I couldn’t find a travel insurance policy which “covered pregnancy” but didn’t exclude more or less all pregnancy-related complications in the fine print. I was quite shocked. I really couldn’t work out what these companies meant when they said they covered pregnancy.

    Both times I’ve chosen to travel close to home for this reason.

  2. Another tip my OB recommended was to get up and walk around every 60-90 minutes in the 3rd trimester on the plane or, if you’re in a car, to stop and walk so that you don’t get blood clots. Your tips are spot on. I went hiking through knee high snow on a glacier when I was in my 1st trimester. Exhausting! I really slowed our group down. And yes to the doctor’s letter about how far along you are. A cruise boat almost didn’t let me board at 16 weeks because I was HUGE.

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