Useful information on travel in third trimester including possible risks, precautions you should take, vaccinations and medical care abroad.
Once you enter the final trimester of your pregnancy the biggest factor that is going to influence your decision to travel (aside from comfort) is the risk of premature (or preterm) labour. This refers to natural labour occurring before the 37th week of pregnancy. If you start to display signs of labour before this stage it is likely that you and your baby are going to need some degree of special medical care. For this reason you should always check the quality and availability of the medical facilities at your travel destination. This includes their ability to provide you and your baby with the care you need should you go into early labour.
It is especially important to visit your doctor before you travel as they will be able to examine you to assess your chances of an early labour. This will often involve an internal exam during which the length of your cervix may be checked - lowering or thinning of the cervix may be a signal that labour will occur in the near future. You may also be given an ultrasound.
If you are displaying risk factors associated with a preterm labour your doctor may advise you to stay at home where you will have easy access to medical facilities you are familiar with and medical staff that are familiar with your situation and obstetric history.
If you do travel during your third trimester (whether in the UK or abroad) you should carry a copy of your medical records with you so that if you do require medical attention, the doctors will have all of your medical information to hand. As a precaution it is also advisable to avoid travelling alone during your third trimester.
When travelling abroad during the third trimester it is essential that you are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance that includes care during pregnancy (contact your insurance provider to check the details if unsure). Your policy should cover you for pregnancy related medical care during labour, premature birth and any other pregnancy complications that may arise. You should also check whether they cover the cost of moving your return flight if you need to alter your travel arrangements home.
Travel by car
You should always wear your seat belt when travelling by car as it will protect you and your unborn baby in the event of a crash. You should the position the best so that the diagonal strap sits between your breasts and the lap strap sits across your lower pelvis rather than stomach. Airbags are designed to protect your face and upper body in the event of a collision. However, as a precaution you should push you seat as far back from the dashboard or steering wheel as possible when in the car (this applies to cars both with and without airbags).
If possible try and get someone else to drive if you are travelling over a longer distance, or at the very least you should share the driving and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue. As with a plane you should try to move and change position as often as possible to help boost circulation - frequent snack and toilet breaks will provide a good opportunity for this.
If you are in the latter stages of pregnancy and are travelling far away from home it may be wise to have a hospital bag (filled with the basics for Mum and baby) and a car seat ready in the boot in case of an early arrival.
If you are involved in a collision whilst you are travelling by car, no matter how minor, you should visit your doctor for a checkup.
Travel by boat
While a cruise can seem like the perfect pre-baby break you do need to consider several factors. Before booking you should check the cruise providers pregnancy policy as they are likely to place restrictions as to how far into pregnancy you are able to travel (these are often more stringent than those for air travel).
It is also vital that you check the availability of, and distance to an appropriately equipped medical centre in case of premature labour as although large cruise liners are likely to have medical staff on board they are unlikely to have the equipment available to help in a pregnancy related emergency.
You should also consider comfort factors - will the bed be big/comfy enough to accommodate your growing bump, are there plenty of bathroom facilities available, will you have access to a bath? Additionally, you should stick to larger liners during the last few months as these tend to be more table in the water and so reduce the opportunity for falls and motion sickness.
Food and drink
It is vital that you stay hydrated during the final trimester not least because this will help to prevent preterm labour. Drink plenty of bottled water and avoid caffeinated or fizzy drinks as these can be dehydrating especially in a hot climate.
When travelling in countries where tap water is not purified you should be especially wary of ice cubes, prepared salads and unpeeled fruit and vegetable as these pose a risk of stomach upset and travellers diarrhea - the usual treatment for which are not suitable during pregnancy. Additionally you should be wary or unpasteurised dairy products and undercooked meat and fish as these also present a health risk.
If you suffer from heartburn or indigestion you should avoid spicy dishes and heavy meals - instead taking a combination of smaller meals and snacks throughout the day should be more comfortable. Sipping sparkling water may also help.
Although travel to countries where vaccinations against disease are required is not generally recommended during pregnancy because of the theoretical risk of transmission of a live vaccine from mother to fetus, your doctor will be able to help you weigh up the benefits and risk of vaccination against the likelihood and outcome of contracting the disease.
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