Q- What recommendations do you have for women who are pregnant and traveling during the holiday season?
A- “Air travel is generally safe during pregnancy in the absence of obstetrical or medical complications. It is therefore important to ask you doctor first before making travel plans. If you are planning to fly this holiday there are a few things to consider. First, you must use your seat belt at all times since air turbulence cannot be predicted. Seat belts should be placed low on the hipbone. Secondly, the potential risk of blood clots from long periods of immobilization and low cabin humidity has been a cause for concern despite the lack of evidence of such events during pregnancy. The use of support stockings and periodic movement of legs are preventative measures that can be used to minimize the risk of lower extremity blood clots. Thirdly, it is best to avoid consuming gas-producing drinks while flying because entrapped gases expand in high altitudes. Stay hydrated by consuming water or juice. Finally, whole body scanners at airports have been a recent concern to all travelers even thought radiation exposure is minimal. If you remain concerned it is reasonable to ask for a different screening method such as wand scan or full body pat- down.”
“Regardless which method of travel you choose, it is always important to consider how far along you are and the potential for complications at the time of travel. The most common obstetric complications occur in the first and third trimester. So if you must travel during these periods it would be reasonable to have your prenatal records with you and your doctor’s contact information. Also make sure to take anti-nausea or heart burn medications because it is not uncommon to feel sick during a road trip or flight.”
Q- At what time during pregnancy should a woman no longer consider flying to travel?
A- “This is an individualized decision between you and your doctor however each airline has its own policy. Most airlines will allow you to fly up to 36 weeks. Remember the closer you get to term the more common it is to go into labor or have blood pressure problems unrelated to travel.”
Q-There are so many holiday gatherings and meals at this time of year, is there anything a pregnant woman should avoid eating for health reasons?
A- “Yes, holiday meals can contain food items that should be avoided during pregnancy because of the concern for infection. It is unsafe to consume unpasteurized milk or cheese. Unless it clearly labeled as pasteurized then you must avoid brie, feta, camembert, blue cheese and Mexican queso blanco/fresco. You must also avoid deli meat or uncooked meat and poultry. It is also important to stay away from pate, meat spreads and refrigerated lox. Sushi may contain uncooked seafood and shellfish and should also be avoided. Uncooked eggs can be found in some homemade Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise and custard recipes so it is important to ask the cook before consuming. Home made egg nog recipes call for raw eggs and alcohol and therefore should not be consumed. Store bought egg nog contains pasteurized eggs and does not contain alcohol so it can be consumed safely during pregnancy. Because there is no amount of alcohol that is considered safe during pregnancy it should be strictly avoided.”
Q- Do you have any special travel recommendations for women who are pregnant and have a past history of pre-term labor or premature rupture of membranes?
A- “It is best not to travel after 23- 24 weeks (viability) with this obstetrical history because of the high risk of recurrence and the need to be near a tertiary center should these complications recur. If travel cannot be avoided but can be planned in a patient with such history it would be best to do travel prior to 23 wks and after 34 wks because management of the mother and baby are less critical.”
Q- If a woman who is pregnant and traveling starts to not feel well, what is the best course of action?
A- “If she is traveling by air she should tell the flight attendant immediately so that medical help can be enlisted. If she is traveling by car the patient or her travel companion can call her physician to address the concerns. If it is an emergency (labor, bleeding) then she should find the nearest hospital. It is always important to know the names, addresses and phone numbers of hospitals that are located along the travel route or nearest the final destination in case of emergency.”
Great information for woman throughout this holiday season. Tell us about your holiday traditions and advice for surviving the holiday season while pregnanct!