The Pre-Baby Vacation

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 01, 2008
5 min read

The nursery is ready, you're stocked up on onesies, and you've got themarket cornered on diapers. You are ready for baby to come -- well, almost.Before you pack your bag and get ready for your highly anticipated trip to thehospital, pack it for a babymoon, instead.

The babymoon is the new way to describe the pre-baby vacation, before youcan use the word parent to describe yourself. It's your curtain call, your lasthoorah, your encore. But whether it's to Hawaii, Timbuktu, or a B&B aroundthe corner, vacationing while with child calls for some extra consideration.Experts give WebMD traveling dos and don'ts for expectant moms.

Before you call the travel agent and book your trip, the first thing youshould do is talk to your doctor, especially if you are in the thirdtrimester.

"Be absolutely certain that there are no risk factors for prematurepregnancy," says Thomas Ivester, MD, from the division of maternal fetalmedicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "I think thebiggest risk is that you are far from home when you deliver."

With timing in mind, the safest window of opportunity for a pregnant womanto travel is during the second trimester, or 18-24 weeks, according to theAmerican College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG).

"While weeks 18-24 may be the safest time to travel, that doesn'texclude the rest of your pregnancy. There are just more safety issues in thefirst and third trimesters to consider," says Sandra Cesario, MD, from theCollege of Nursing at Texas Woman's University in Houston.

"Those first few weeks, you may be nauseated and tired, and it's not agood time to travel."

Also, schedule your vacation around your prenatal visits. While this trip isimportant, so are your trips to the doctor.

While dashing off to an exotic location sounds nice, it's not necessarilypractical. So what do you need to consider before you book a trip to thejungles of Belize while pregnant?

First, if you decide to travel internationally, you should consult with yourobstetrician to evaluate both the quality of care that will be available atyour exotic location of choice and what preventive measures, like vaccinations,should be taken before you go.

"If you are traveling to another country, you should check if thatcountry requires immunizations," says Khalil Tabsh, MD, chief of obstetricsat UCLA. "If it's not a live vaccine, it is OK. If it is live, then youshould check with your obstetrician." Live virus vaccines include measles,mumps, rubella, varicella, and yellow fever.

You should also consider altitude when picking your vacation spot. The CDCrecommends that all pregnant women avoid altitudes higher than 12,000 feet, andin high-risk or late-stage pregnancies, avoid destinations higher than 8,200feet -- so save the trip to Mt. Everest for another day.

Finally, do you fly or drive? The ACOG states that women can fly safely upto 36 weeks into their pregnancies.

"If you are flying, check to see if there are any restrictions with theairline you've chosen," says Cesario. "There are certain airlinepolicies that do require a letter from your doctor that it's safe for you totravel while pregnant -- you'd hate to plan a trip and find the airline won'tlet you get on."

Your doctor has given you the green light, and you are ready for thebabymoon to begin. What should you do next, other than pack a pair of flipflops and a sarong?

  • Check that you will have access to quality medical facilities at yourtravel destination, in case you need them. "I would take a complete list ofcontact information for your doctors," says Ivester. "I would alsocarry along contact information for qualified or highly-rated health-carefacilities in the area where you are traveling, in case you needthem."

  • Ensure your health insurance is valid while abroad, and to be on the safeside, the CDC suggests getting a supplemental travel insurance policy and aprepaid medical evaluation insurance policy.
  • Know your blood type, and find out if the blood supply where you are goingis screened for HIV and hepatitis B.

You're booked, packed, and ready to go. Here are some tips to keep in mindwhile traveling while expecting.

When flying, the ACOG recommends that pregnant women get up and walk everyhalf hour if possible and flex and extend their ankles frequently to preventblood clots. Also, wear your seat belt under your belly, and drink plenty offluids to stay hydrated.

"Appropriate seat belt use is very important -- buckle it below thebulge of the belly," says Cesario. "It's a big deal because there is amyth that seat belts will hurt the baby, when they really save lives and it'salways safer to wear it."

Remember that while you may be on vacation, your heartburn, leg cramps, andfrequent bathroom trips are not, so a travel partner at the very least willgive you sympathy. More practically, your companion can search for a bathroomfor you when you're in the middle of nowhere and need to go.

"If a pregnant woman has bleeding, cramping, fever, pain, orcontractions, she should seek medical care immediately, wherever she is,"says Tabsh.

If you're in California, don't worry about it. But if you're in the rainforest in South America, don't drink the water. According to the CDC, hepatitisE, which can be contracted through water, is not vaccine preventable and can beespecially dangerous for pregnant women.

"Pregnant women should drink bottled water when traveling in developingareas," says Tabsh. "Also make sure that the meat you eat is thoroughlycooked when traveling, and avoid salads, which might have been washed with tapwater that isn't clean."

Diseases like malaria can be more severe in pregnant women and harmful to afetus, according to the CDC. So avoid insects by wearing proper clothing,remaining indoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, usingbed nets, and applying DEET-containing repellents. Also, talk to your doctorabout preventive medicine.

"If you are traveling to endemic areas of malaria, you should be onanti-malarial medication," says Tabsh.

"Anything that might have a high impact or high risk of falling, likebicycling or skiing, should be avoided," says Ivester. "Also avoidanything with extreme pressure changes, like scuba diving."

"Make it a relaxing vacation," says Cesario. "Enjoy yourself andtry not to do too much."

Show Sources

SOURCES: Sandra Cesario, MD, College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston; co-chairwoman, continuum of newborn care advisory panel, Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. Thomas Ivester, MD, division of maternal fetal medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Khalil Tabsh, MD, chief of obstetrics, UCLA. CDC. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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