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Expert tips for travelling while pregnant

You may be pregnant but travel can still be an exciting adventure, an indulgent escape, or even an important way to grow your business.

Having cover for pregnancy as part of your travel insurance can assist in easing your mind, but these experts have important advice for expectant travellers, from the planning stage through to the final destination.

Professor Euan Wallace is one of Australia’s leading specialists in this field and Professor Hannah Dahlen is internationally renowned in midwifery - both are here to share their tips for travelling while pregnant!

Visit our frequently asked questions about pregnancy travel insurance.

Is the Zika virus a risk if I'm pregnant?

Yes. The most recent issue for pregnant travellers, according to Professor Wallace, is the Zika Virus because of the potential for brain damage in an unborn baby.

The World Health Organization has classified countries according to risk of transmission, from Category 1 being high risk due to ongoing transmission, to Category 4 with no known documented past or current transmission. Professor Wallace says advice for pregnant women planning their travel is to avoid Category 1 and 2 countries.

What vaccinations should pregnant women have?

The two key vaccinations most women in high-income countries would be recommended to have in pregnancy are flu and whooping cough or pertussis, largely for the safety of the baby but also for the safety of themselves, Professor Wallace says.

Vaccines are generally split into two groups:

  • Inactivated vaccines where there is no live virus, which are generally safe during pregnancy; and
  • Live attenuated vaccines, which aren’t usually given to women in pregnancy.

If a pregnant woman is travelling to a country where a vaccination is normally required or recommended, they should seek advice from a doctor who specialises in travel medicine or visit a travel clinic.

Do I need a doctor's letter to travel while pregnant?

Pregnant travellers should obtain a letter from their obstetrician or midwife explicitly stating their weeks of pregnancy and due date. Women pregnant with their second or third baby can look more pregnant than they really are, so a letter will help avoid issues with airline staff.

To find out what common airline restrictions are in place for pregnant travellers, check out our guide here

pregnant woman on vacation

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and am I at risk?

Professor Dahlen’s recommendation is that pregnant women should not be frightened of flying but some simple precautions can make it safer.

Deep vein thrombosis is more common when you’re pregnant. You’re more likely to have changes in your blood profile as well, which can enable clots to develop more easily.

It’s really important to move around regularly and rotate your ankles, to wear flights socks, and to make sure you’re well hydrated. For a pregnant woman to do all that, I’d really advise getting an aisle seat, which will also make it easier to get to the toilet frequently.

In-flight brochures can be a handy resource for exercise suggestions designed to reduce the risk of blood clots. On longer-haul flights, Professor Dahlen recommends stopping half way, possibly staying overnight in a country en route. This is helpful for DVT but also to give pregnant bodies a break, as flying can have more of a physical impact than usual, for example, your feet can become even more swollen than usual.

Women with a history of DVT – for example, those who had it in a previous pregnancy – or who are known to be at a higher risk should seek extra medical advice. They may need to be on an anti-coagulant to help stop their blood from clotting, Professor Dahlen says.

What food should I avoid while pregant and travelling?

Pregnant women should be mindful of water hygiene and consumption of unpasteurised products, according to Professor Wallace.

In many European countries you can buy unpasteurised and that has a risk of listeria for pregnant women, particularly with soft cheeses. If you’re having dairy products when travelling, ask if the milk is pasteurised and if not, avoid these foods.

If there is concern about water quality, avoid ice cubes, drink bottled water and only eat fruits and vegetables that you can peel, so avoid tomatoes and salads. 

Traveller's diarrhoea (commonly referred to as Bali belly) is a risk while travelling for anyone, but is particularly unpleasant if pregnant. Check out these tips about how to avoid Bali belly and what to do if you happen to contract it.

How to pack for travel when pregnant

Remember to travel in comfortable, loose fitting clothes and flat shoes. Be prepared for your ankles to swell during travel, particularly long haul, so your shoes should have plenty of room. Long distance air travel also dries skin so carry a simple moisturiser with you that you can also use to moisturise your growing tummy.

When you arrive at your destination, get some fresh air if possible and take a short walk. This will re-set your body clock to local time more smoothly.

Follow the above tips to be on your way to having a positive travel experience. In case something doesn’t go to plan, ensure you have the appropriate level of cover with an insurer you trust. 

Do you have questions about Cover-More's travel insurance for pregnancy? Visit our FAQ page for useful information.

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