Travelling in pregnancy
With the proper precautions, and armed with information on when to travel, vaccinations and travel insurance, most women can travel safely well into their pregnancy.
Wherever you go, find out what healthcare facilities are at your destination in case you need urgent medical attention. It's a good idea to take your maternity medical records (sometimes called handheld notes) with you so you can give doctors the relevant information if necessary.
Find out more about getting healthcare abroad.
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for any eventuality, such as pregnancy-related medical care during labour, premature birth and the cost of changing the date of your return trip if you go into labour.
When to travel in pregnancy
Some women prefer not to travel in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy because of nausea and vomiting and feeling very tired during these early stages. The risk of miscarriage is also higher in the first 3 months, whether you're travelling or not.
Travelling in the final months of pregnancy can be tiring and uncomfortable. So, many women find the best time to travel or take a holiday is in mid-pregnancy, between 4 and 6 months.
"Travel during pregnancy is a concern for many women," says Sarah Reynolds, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Bedford Hospital NHS Trust. "But if your pregnancy has no complications then there's no reason why you can't travel safely, as long as you take the right precautions."
Here are some general tips to ensure you and your baby stay healthy during your travels.
Flying in pregnancy
Flying isn't harmful to you or your baby, but discuss any health issues or pregnancy complications with your midwife or doctor before you fly.
The chance of going into labour is naturally higher after 37 weeks (around 32 weeks if you're carrying twins), and some airlines won't let you fly towards the end of your pregnancy. Check with the airline for their policy on this.
After week 28 of pregnancy, the airline may ask for a letter from your doctor or midwife confirming your due date, and that you aren't at risk of complications.
Long-distance travel (longer than 4 hours) carries a small risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis (DVT)). If you fly, drink plenty of water and move about regularly – every 30 minutes or so. You can buy a pair of graduated compression or support stockings from the pharmacy, which will help reduce leg swelling.
Travel vaccinations when you're pregnant
Most vaccines that use live bacteria or viruses aren't recommended during pregnancy because of concerns that they could harm the baby in the womb.
However, some live vaccines may be considered during pregnancy if the risk of infection outweighs the risk of live vaccination.
Non-live (inactivated) vaccines are safe to use in pregnancy.
"If you must travel to areas requiring inoculation, you should get your jabs," says Dr Reynolds. "The risk of catching an infectious disease far outweighs the risk from vaccination."
Ask your GP or midwife for advice about specific travel vaccinations.
Some anti-malaria tablets aren't safe to take in pregnancy so ask your GP for advice.
Car travel in pregnancy
It's best to avoid long car journeys if you're pregnant. However, if it can't be avoided, make sure you stop regularly and get out of the car to stretch and move around.
You can also do some exercises in the car (when you're not driving), such as flexing and rotating your feet and wiggling your toes. This will keep the blood flowing through your legs and reduce any stiffness and discomfort. Wearing compression stockings while on long car journeys (more than 4 hours) can also increase the blood flow in your legs and help prevent blood clots.
Fatigue and dizziness are common during pregnancy so it's important on car journeys to drink regularly and eat natural, energy-giving foods, such as fruit and nuts.
Keep the air circulating in the car and wear your seatbelt with the cross strap between your breasts and the lap strap across your pelvis under your bump, not across your bump.
Road accidents are among the most common causes of injury in pregnant women. If you have to make a long trip, don't travel on your own. You could also share the driving with your companion.
Sailing in pregnancy
Ferry companies have their own restrictions and may refuse to carry heavily pregnant women (often beyond 32 weeks). Check the ferry company's policy before you book.
For longer boat trips, such as cruises, find out if there are onboard facilities to deal with pregnancy and medical services at the docking ports.
Food and drink abroad in pregnancy
Take care to avoid food- and water-borne conditions, such as stomach upsets and travellers' diarrhoea. Some medicines for treating stomach upsets and travellers' diarrhoea aren't suitable during pregnancy.
Always check if tap water is safe to drink. If in doubt, drink bottled water. If you get ill, keep hydrated and continue eating for the health of your baby, even if you're not hungry.
Page last reviewed: 12 November 2018
Next review due: 12 November 2021