Traveling for Two: Advice for Pregnant Vacationers
Seat Belts and Air Bags Can Save Your Fetus' Life
Schlepping bags through an airport and long car rides in an
automobile are not the most memorable aspects of anyone's vacation -- and if
you already happen to be carrying a little extra baggage these days because
you're pregnant, those memories may be all you will remember unless you plan
your trip well.
But experts say pregnant travelers need not be detained from
vacations and other travel plans. "Up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy, if
the mother is doing well she can do all sorts of traveling," says Marcos
Pupkin, MD, chair of obstetrics-gynecology at Mercy Medical Center in
But the closer to delivery time, the less advisable travel
becomes. And complications of any kind indicate the need to see a doctor before
traveling, Pupkin says.
"Anytime the patient is having contractions, low abdominal
pain that could mean contractions, or bleeding from the uterus, traveling
should be avoided," he tells WebMD.
Whether traveling by plane or car, pregnant women are apt to be
sitting for long periods. "For a four- or five-hour drive I would advise
pregnant women to get out of the car every hour and a half and walk for one
minute," Pupkin says. "The same is true for flying. Keep your legs
working once per hour and walk in the corridor of the plane. This becomes even
more important as you get to the third trimester."
And Pupkin offers a tip to pregnant women traveling in the
passenger seat of a car or in a plane: Place a small box on the floor where you
can elevate your feet slightly above the ground. "You don't want the back
of your legs compressed all the time," he says. "That closes off
circulation returning from the feet."
But comfort for mom and baby is not the only concern for
pregnant women taking to the highways. In a nation that reported more than
40,000 traffic fatalities in 2000, buckling up and driving sanely is a must
when one of your passengers is a fetus.
Mark Pearlman, MD, reports that of nearly four million
deliveries every year, about 7% are complicated by trauma, and about two-thirds
of those are related to motor vehicle accidents. That can amount to 250,000
traffic accidents involving pregnant women every year, says Pearlman, who is
vice chair and professor of obstetrics-gynecology at the University of Michigan
Approximately 2% of car crashes involving a pregnant woman --
or about 2,500 accidents -- will result in an adverse outcome for the
pregnancy, he says, so "regardless of the severity of the traffic accident,
pregnant mothers involved in a crash should be seen by a doctor right
Pearlman tells WebMD that years of specialized research looking
at how traffic fatalities occur among pregnant travelers has shown that what is
true for the general population is true for mom and her fetus: Seat belts and
air bags work.