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Q&A: Traveling While Pregnant

Tips From Jagdip Powar, MD

Whether it's for fun or work, traveling while pregnant can have its challenges. Jagdip Powar, MD, an obstetrician for the Stanford Children's Health network, shares his expertise on the dos and don'ts of traveling while pregnant.

Q: Is there an ideal time to travel when you are pregnant?

A: The best time to travel is between 12 weeks and about 34 weeks. That's when there is the least chance of complications or going into labor and most of the prenatal testing has been completed.

Q: Are there any limitations on traveling while pregnant?

A: It's generally recommended that women can travel by airplane, car, etc., up to 36 weeks of their pregnancy. After 36 weeks, we recommend that they don't travel more than an hour away from where they plan to deliver. For example, if they live in the South Bay, they can travel to San Francisco or San Jose, or even as far as Napa or Carmel. But typically, we don't recommend going any farther than that.

Q: Do airlines have any restrictions?

A: Airlines no longer have set restrictions, but they will sometimes require a doctor's note if you want to fly when you get to a certain stage of pregnancy. Patients should check the guidelines of the individual airline.

Q: Do you have any tips on how to stay comfortable while traveling?

A: It's always good to wear loose-fitting clothes and shoes that you can slip on and off. Support stockings can help for leg swelling and varicose veins. Also, it's important to get up and move around a lot, go to the bathroom frequently and, of course, hydrate well.

Q: Are there health conditions that might prevent someone from traveling?

A: Pregnant women should not travel if they are experiencing vaginal bleeding, at risk for premature labor, carrying twins and are more than 28 weeks pregnant, diagnosed with a ruptured membrane, or experiencing contractions. They also shouldn't travel if the patient's physician has any concerns.

Q: What about pregnant women with specific health conditions?

A: If patients have a history of clotting disorders, they should wear support stockings and take a blood thinner or any other medications prescribed by their physician.

Q: What are the travel recommendations regarding the Zika virus?

A: At this time, pregnant women should not travel to Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, as well as around Brownsville, Texas, and certain parts of the Miami-Dade County area in Florida. Also, a woman who plans on becoming pregnant shouldn't go to these places up to 8 weeks prior to getting pregnant and for her entire pregnancy.

Since the Zika virus can be sexually transmitted, these restrictions also apply to their partners. It's advised that the partner of a woman who is pregnant or is trying to become pregnant not travel to these areas six months prior to the actual pregnancy or during the pregnancy. However, if it's necessary for the partner to travel to these areas, he should use condoms to prevent transmitting the virus.

The recommendations change often, so patients should check with their physicians or the CDC Website to get the most current recommendations for Zika or any other diseases or safety concerns.

Q: Should a pregnant patient check with her doctor in advance of traveling?

A: It's always good to check with your physician in advance and to get as much information as possible from the CDC website.

Q: What if there are complications while traveling?

A: Patients should seek immediate help from the closest medical facility and, if possible, get in touch with their physician.

For more information about how you can make your pregnancy and delivery the best experience it can be, visit the Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services.

Dr. Powar's medical practice is part of the Stanford Children's Health network. He has worked as a gynecologist and obstetrician for more than 30 years and has delivered thousands of babies to families throughout the Bay Area.

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