Pregnant woman's guide to healthy travel
Going on holiday when pregnant isn't quite as simple as bunging a bikini in a backpack and hitting the road. Helen Foster offers expert tips on making travel that little bit easier when you've got a bump on board
Ways to ensure a more comfortable journey...
Pack a pillow
As your bump grows, the curve in your lower back becomes more pronounced which can lead to aches and pains when sitting. 'Placing a pillow in the lower back gives added support,' says chiropractor Dr Krister Harm (sensushealth. com). You might also want to invest in a coccyx cushion. 'In some pregnant women with a very pronounced lower back curve, the coccyx starts to stick out more which can be uncomfortable when sitting for a long time. These cushions have a hole to reduce pressure.'
If you're travelling by plane, this website helps you locate the loos, check leg room and how far seats recline. Then hit your airline's website and see if you can request your ideal seat prior to check-in. You may have to join the frequent-flyer club but it'll be worth it to guarantee, say, an aisle seat near the toilet. To avoid motion sickness (pregnant women can be more prone) try and sit over the wing – or in a car or coach choose seats where you can look directly through the front window.
Beat puffy ankles
Journeys of more than four hours (not just flights) increases the risk of swollen ankles and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Consultant vascular surgeon Eddie Chaloner of Radiance Health, says to walk about as often as you can and to wear properly fitted compression stockings. He recommends the thigh-high class one graduated stockings from Sigvaris (from pharmacies) or Venosan.
On a plane it's advised that you fasten the seatbelt under your bump – and if it feels tight, ask for an extender for added comfort. In a car or coach use an additional product like the Clippasafe Advanced Bump Belt, £24.99 which, if you did have an accident, transfers the force from your torso to the hip and pelvis protecting the baby.
Beat the heat
Pregnancy makes you more prone to heatstroke. 'It's particularly important to keep cool at night with fans, air-conditioning and light bedding,' says nurse manager Gael Somerville from Masta Travel Clinics. 'Temperature rises throughout the day so you want to wake up as cool as possible.' During the day, loose cotton clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and a bare neck are key – and buy a handheld fan for your face. According to research done by the Waseda university in Japan, cooling the face is the fastest way to drop overall temperature.
Your (NEW) travel health solutions
When it comes to treating bites and tummy bugs, most over-the-counter drugs should not be used by pregnant women (although your GP may prescribe them for severe symptoms). But that doesn't mean you have to suffer. Here's our alternative list...
Optibac Probiotics For Travelling Abroad £9.18
Take these before you go. 'They can help strengthen the system against bacteria in food and water and prevent sickness,' says Beverley Tompkins from Nomad Travel Clinics.
Dioralyte £4.25, from pharmacies.
'Dehydration is the main risk with stomach upsets,' says Beverley. 'These sachets help boost your fluids.'
Jungle Formula Spray £4.99
Mosquitos love pregnant women, so get a repellent. Products containing up to 50 per cent deet are considered safe. 'Use as directed and wash your hands after application,' says Gail Somerville from Masta.
Soap & Glory Travel Size Flake Away Body Scrub £2.50
Mosquitos like chemicals we give off called kairomones. You emit fewer of these if you exfoliate every two to three days and always wear clean clothes.
'These acupressure bands help because they press on the part of the wrist that treats travel sickness,' says pharmacist Manny Johal.
Boots Pharmaceuticals Electronic Allergy Relief Device £19.99
This device makes the nose less sensitive to irritants like pollen. 'Used regularly, it has a cumulative effect that can stop hay fever attacks,' says Manny.
After Bite insect bite remedy £3.99
Even topical antihistamines are not recommended. 'If you do suffer with very itchy bites you can use ammonia sticks like After Bite to relieve itching,' says Manny.
Tips from a travelling mum-to-be
Jo Murray, 31, is a fitness instructor from Lancashire. She had been travelling for 12 months when she fell pregnant – so she just kept going until she reached 28 weeks.
'We were in South-east Asia – specifically Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. The hospitals are great, and as they're private, you can get scanned whenever you want to make sure everything is ok.
Luckily, I had an easy pregnancy, apart from feeling sick when I was hungry, so we decided to keep going until I needed a doctor's note to fly home.
'I'd say my top tips are:
✦ Invest in a Shewee (£12.50) as you never want to be too far from a toilet!
✦ Keep hydrated in the heat – carry clean water with you.
✦ Make sure you carry your notes and research where the nearest English-speaking hospitals are.
✦ Buy fisherman pants when you get there – they're cheap, cotton, and grow with you.
✦ Carry snacks with you. You don't want to risk trying to find food somewhere that looks less than sanitary because you've suddenly got really hungry.
Check the rules
Airlines can get nervous when a heavily pregnant woman walks up to check-in. As a result, each airline has its own pregnancy policy as to when they think it's too risky to carry you. Generally, the cut off is around 36 weeks for a single pregnancy and 32 weeks for multiple births. However, it's not necessarily plain sailing before this. If you look big for dates, or are past the 28-week mark, you'll need a 'fit to fly' letter from your doctor confirming everything is ok. Some airlines may even ask your doctor to fill in a specific form. Check out our full list of each airline's rules – even then, double check with your airline as things can change.
Oh, and talking of sailing, watch out if you're travelling by ferry. Some companies won't let you travel on bumpy high speed service after 28 weeks, and even normal boats have a 32-week cut off.
You must have travel insurance – and, if you have an annual policy, or took out the policy before you found out you were expecting, you must inform your insurer of your, erm, change in circumstances – and they may ask for an additional premium to cover you. Whatever you take out, read the policy very carefully so you know what is and isn't covered. One thing to be very careful of, is that your baby themselves is covered.
'I have heard of cases of pregnant women giving birth prematurely abroad and ending up with huge Special Baby Care Unit (SBCU) bills as their insurance company claimed that the baby, once delivered, was a separate person and needed its own insurance,' says Gael Somerville from Masta.