Traveling during pregnancy has a lot of benefits, but also what are some things you need to consider, especially during the third trimester? Pregnant women need to be more cautious as they get further into their pregnancy, and this article will tell you what to watch for and how to prepare when travel is necessary.
First off, how do I know so much about travel during pregnancy? Hello! I’m Hilary — many people know me as The Pregnancy Nurse® 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind this website Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have talked to LOTS of patients about traveling later in pregnancy, as well as hearing their experiences upon their return — so I’m a great resource on this one.
I’m also a Disney travel pro, so I think a lot about travel and how to make it easier!
Before we jump into the tips — let me answer this big question about travel while pregnant:
Is it safe to travel in 3rd trimester of pregnancy?
It really depends. You need to discuss with your provider who has access to your current health, your health history as well as any complications you may be facing to make the best choice as to if it safe to travel
You are going to really ask yourself if it is the best time to travel for yourself (and baby).
BTW, if you’re in the third trimester, you’re at the perfect spot for this! Get that prenatal class done ASAP!
Is it safer to travel in your second trimester?
Most often yes — it is considered safe for pregnant people to travel during their second and first trimesters as long as your pregnancy has no complications.
Some people have so much morning sickness in early pregnancy that travel sounds miserable then, but that’s a different case. But you should be aware that even common pregnancy symptoms can make travel more annoying than it already is (and you need to figure out if that is worth it to you).
If you can arrange your trip to happen prior to 28 weeks it will likely be more fun, easier on your body and less risky. However, travel plans during the third trimester can often be accommodated as well (unless you’re cruising, but we’ll get into that).
Restrictions on Plane Travel During Pregnancy
This article was super interesting. Honestly, I am not sure how they’d know how far along you are and it would probably cause a LOT more headaches asking someone if they’re pregnant (when they’re not) — but some airlines do have policies on if they allow pregnant people to fly.
Most seem to allow pregnant women to decide when is best to travel for themselves when they travel by air.
Why shouldn’t you fly in your third trimester?
Air travel can be unpredictable. From delays to turbulence, to being stuck on the tarmac — you don’t have a lot of control over what’s going on (or ability to stop it).
You are also stuck in a seat for a long period of time, which isn’t great for a pregnant body (movement is extra important for a pregnant body). If you can avoid air travel that is probably the best. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that most airlines allow people to fly up to about 36 weeks of pregnancy. This page has some of the pro’s and con’s to air travel during pregnancy.
Obviously, the airline doesn’t want you to go into labor and have a birth (especially a premature birth) on the flight.
It is super rare to go into preterm labor or have premature rupture of membranes or something, but it does happen — so you just have to be aware there is a risk.
Ok, let’s get to the tips:
Talk With Your Provider
I can’t stress this enough. It’s so important to talk with your provider before traveling, especially the closer you get to your due date. There are common problems, that while not an issue while you’re in your home area and doing your regular things are not really problematic, but can be very problematic should you be in bumpy air travel or away from your providers.
So, please talk with your provider before considering travel later in pregnancy.
Note: Your provider may say they just can’t recommend it, and much if that is due to liability — so I would then ask these questions:
- What are the reasons I shouldn’t travel?
- Are there things I can do to this trip that would make you feel more comfortable with me going?
- Are these particular things to me, or a recommendation for all patients at this stage?
And then take their answers to this and make your own decision that works for you.
Note: Yes, doctors really are afraid of telling you, that seems like it should be OK — and then you going into labor and suing them. Hence, the note above.
There are so many different reasons people travel. Pleasure, work, family stuff…. and all of those are in varying degrees of need.
- Pleasure – if you really need a vacation, could you fulfill that need by doing a local staycation instead?
- Work – is it really necessary you go? This is definitely a question to have with your boss (I think most businesses don’t want pregnant workers on planes, but I’m sure there are some)
- Family Stuff – I definitely traveled to my grandma’s funeral when i was in my third trimester, but you needing to be at family stuff is your own call.
When you make this choice, be sure to take into account any pregnancy symptoms you’re having that may make this trip absolutely miserable. Be honest with yourself.
Get your Prenatal Records
One thing that would be important to bring is some basics of your prenatal records with you — a copy of your health records from your provider would be best (just ask at your appointment and they can provide them) Especially during your third trimester. I actually talk about the most important things to know about yourself during pregnancy on my podcast:
But, some things to have with you (mainly lab work):
- Blood Type
- If you’ve had a rhogham shot
- GBS status (if you’ve had it taken)
- Your RPR
- Any anomalies on ultrasound
- Notes on any complications you’re having with your pregnancy.
Obviously, if you’re seeing a perinatologist (also called Maternal Fetal Medicine) for anything in particular you’d want more information on that.
Get Travel Insurance
Because this time in your life is so unpredictable, I’d try to get travel insurance when possible (and necessary — if it’s just a plane ticket you can get a credit for, it’s not as important). I actually recommend travel insurance for ALL of your pregnancy, just because you never know. 🙂
While we’re at it — check how your health insurance policy would mange it if you go into labor at your destination. Some insurances will cover it as out of network which could end up costing you a LOT of money. Some travel insurances will cover health issues on your trip as well (not sure if they cover pregnancy issues, so be sure to check).
Limit Plane Travel Time
If you can limit how much time you’re stuck in a plane it’s better. This may mean taking a flight that has a connection rather than no stops. I would encourage you to not be sitting for over 3 hours. You do have an increased risk of having blood clots when you are pregnant, not to mention your body just needs more movement due to your expanding belly side. It will also give you some time to eat a meal and stretch before getting back on the plane.
Keep Doing Kick Counts
Kick counts are EXTRA important when you’re traveling. It’s easy to lose fetal movement when you’re doing new things in new places. Make sure you’re still doing kick counts — and grab my tips on doing them right:
Use Compression Stockings
We’ve talked about blood clots, but swelling also can happen during pregnancy. So, using compression stockings can be really helpful. Something like these is not miserable to use on a plane and can help prevent blood clots. This is important even if you have an otherwise healthy pregnancy. A deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be a big complication so preventing them can be a big help!
I actually also wear compression stockings on flights when possible. It’s just better for our bodies, and I prefer not to feel swollen legs upon my return.
Try To Keep Things “Normal”
Sure, you are going on a vacation to mix things up, but the more normal you can keep doing things like eating, drinking, taking prenatal vitamins and getting sleep, the better-off you’re going to be!
Use a Great Suitcase
Having the things you need is important with travel, but even MORE important when you’re pregnant.
Make sure you have a great suitcase, with wheels. I love the swivel ones that allow me to keep my suitcase upright next to me while traveling through the airport.
I would also recommend using a backpack rather than a one-shoulder bag when possible. When you’re pregnant, extra stress on one shoulder can cause rib pain and back issues much more than when you’re not pregnant.
Try to Sleep
Try to get some rest on the plane if possible. Bring your neck pillow, and maybe pay for picking your seat where you will be the most comfortable (often the aisle seat for both room stretching and getting up to pee) Any sleep you can get on the plane will help you out. Also, bring whatever you need to sleep well at your destination — or ask for it from the front desk. I’m always surprised that some hotels will provide you more firm pillows, etc.
You need to make sure that you’re still peeing and not holding it for long periods during travel (if you can still do that). So make sure you pee when it’s available.
Car Travel Preferred
While most people prefer plane travel, car travel has some benefits too.
You have more control over when you stop/start your travels. You can easily stop when you need, or prop your feet up on the dash.
I wouldn’t recommend you be the driver, when possible, just so you can sleep and prop your feet up on the dash (been there).
I asked my good friends at Get Away Today if you can cruise in the third trimester. It’s a big no from the cruise lines.
Obviously, they don’t want to deliver your baby in the middle of the ocean, so if they can prevent that, they will. They do ask prior to boarding if you have any health issues and do ask about pregnancy, and it is against their terms to cruise if you are past 24 weeks of pregnancy. I believe on all lines.
However, prior to 24 weeks, it is OK to cruise (and frankly, I think it would be a great baby-moon to just sit around all day, relax and eat) 🙂
Take it Easy
Ok, so you’ve figured out getting to your destination. Don’t push yourself like crazy once you get there. Make sure you’re taking it easy. I have a whole post on pregnant at Disneyland and a lot of those tips apply to all travel.
BTW Disney can still be a fun vacation if it’s not too hot and you don’t mind standing/walking — and also giving yourself the time you need to rest when the rest of your family is riding rides that aren’t great for you (although there are PLENTY of rides that are fine).
Now is a great time to people watch, and enjoy a treat while you sit down for a while.
Get Your Feet Up!
When you can, get those feet up. It just helps your body not have to push so hard to get blood and fluids up from your legs. It’s extra hard for your body with the baby pushing down on the veins and arteries that move your blood flow down to your legs.
So, when you can get your feet up, do so — even if you have to prop them up on your partner’s legs or use an extra chair.
Air Flow Is Important (and why)
During pregnancy, your diaphragm moves up into your thoracic cavity, which can make it hard to feel like you’re getting a full breath in.
When you combine that with stuffy air flow, like on a plane or a train you may find yourself getting extra uncomfortable, and even maybe panicing a bit.
I’d recommend traveling with a fan like this (I actually own that one, I love that it’s a power bank, fan and flashlight) or even just a simple hand fan in case you need it. It will help you feel more comfortable if you’re getting air moving around you.
Keep drinking. Now, this is hard because that means you’ll keep peeing. However, you’ve gotta keep your body hydrated. You’ll feel so much better when you do! Find a way to keep water with you all the time.
Pro Tip: Did you know you can bring ICE in a water bottle through TSA. You can’t bring water with the ice, but you can bring ice in your bottle and then fill it up with water past security. I always keep water in my bag when I’m traveling, because you never know when you’ll need it.
I don’t think it’s overboard to be aware of local hospitals, clinics or places to get care if something happens while you are there. Your provider may even have a colleague they know in the area they can give you the information of.
Beware Destination Issues
Finally, be mindful of any issues at your destination. This came to the forefront when Zika first happened, but there are places with:
- Decreased access to medical care
- Language barriers that will be hard to overcome if something goes wrong
- Diseases that are extra bad during pregnancy (like Zika)
So, be sure to discuss with your health care provider any destinations you shouldn’t consider at this point. Also, some destinations may require vaccines, so that’s good to know in advance (and many may not be given during pregnancy). You can also always check the disease control and prevention sites in your location (in the US it’s the CDC — centers for disease control — that would issue any advice on travel during pregnancy due to diseases).
While this is most important for international travel, it may need to be considered for travel within your country as well (like, with air conditions with fires, etc — that’s what came to mind first).
Traveling During Pregnancy FAQ’s
How far can you travel in 3rd trimester?
Really depends on you and your provider’s thoughts on the matter. Talk with them before making plans.
Can you fly at 32 weeks pregnant?
Most often yes, but talk with your provider.
Are you sensing that almost all the FAQ’s are going to be — talk with your provider. 🙂
If you choose to travel, just be sure to talk with them, book an aisle seat where possible, and make sure you take care of yourself. It really is generally safe to travel at this point but each person has their own needs and complications they need to consider in pregnancy travel.
Because your provider knows you – he knows your current health, any pregnancy complications, any previous history as well as what’s going on right NOW (aka, traveling in the heat of the summer, may be different than traveling in the spring).
That’s the beauty of a provider, and why they are so important for you.
And now, back to that prenatal class. I recommend The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. It really prepares you so quick and easy. You’ll be ready before you know it!
Or, if you’re not quite ready for the full class, check out my free prenatal class — It’s your first step towards being your own birth boss.