Traveling While Pregnant or Breastfeeding
Special considerations for traveling while pregnant
Although traveling during pregnancy is normal and a lot of women do it, it is important
for pregnant women to consider potential problems that could come up during international
travel. Pregnant women should also weigh the availability of quality medical care
in the countries they are visiting, before traveling abroad. Getting all of the needed immunizations before
becoming pregnant is preferred over vaccines during pregnancy.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the safest time
for a woman to travel is in the second trimester of her pregnancy — from 14 to 28
weeks. This is the time when women feel the best and are at the lowest risk for spontaneous
abortion or premature labor. During the third trimester (25 to 40 weeks), many healthcare
providers and midwives advise staying within a 300-mile radius of home because of
problems, like hypertension, phlebitis, and/or false or preterm labor. Generally,
women are not allowed to travel by air after 36 weeks for domestic travel, and after
32 to 35 weeks for international travel. The decision on whether to travel and how
far to travel at any time during pregnancy should be a joint decision between the
woman and her healthcare provider or midwife.
According to the CDC, pregnant women with the following conditions may be advised
against traveling to international destinations that require pre-travel immunizations.
As the list below may be incomplete, it is important to discuss your medical history
with your healthcare provider or midwife before planning travel:
History of miscarriage
History of ectopic pregnancy
History of premature labor or premature rupture of membranes
History of or current placental abnormalities
Threatened miscarriage or vaginal bleeding during current pregnancy
Multiple gestation (more than 1 fetus) in current pregnancy
History of toxemia, hypertension, or diabetes with any pregnancy
History of infertility or trouble becoming pregnant
Pregnancy for the first time over the age of 35 years
Heart valve disease or congestive heart failure
History of thromboembolic disease
Severe anemia (blood clots)
Chronic organ system problems that need to be treated
Pregnant women may also be advised against traveling to the following places that
present additional hazards. As the list below may be incomplete, it is important to
discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider or midwife before planning
Areas with high altitudes
Areas endemic for or with ongoing outbreaks of life-threatening food- or insect-borne
Areas where malaria is common
Areas where live-virus vaccines are required or recommended
Healthy tips for traveling while pregnant
Here are tips for traveling while pregnant:
Try to plan ahead for any problems or emergencies that could come up before you travel.
Check to make sure your health insurance is valid while you are abroad, and check
to see whether the policy will cover a newborn, should you deliver while away. You
may want to think about getting a supplemental travel insurance policy and/or medical
evacuation insurance policy.
Research medical facilities in your destination. Women in the last trimester of pregnancy
should look for facilities that can manage complications of pregnancy, toxemia, and
If you will need prenatal care while you are abroad, arrange for this before you leave.
Talk to your healthcare provider or midwife to figure out the best way to handle this.
Know your blood type and check to make sure that blood is screened for HIV and hepatitis
B in the areas you will be visiting.
Check on the availability of safe food and beverages, including bottled water and
pasteurized milk, in your destinations.
If traveling by air, request an aisle seat at the bulkhead. This gives you the most
space and comfort. If morning sickness is a problem, try to arrange travel during
a time of day when you generally feel well. Seats over the wing in the midplane region
will give you the smoothest ride.
Try to walk every half-hour during a smooth flight, and flex and extend your ankles
often to prevent thrombophlebitis (blood clots in the veins).
Fasten your seat belt at the pelvis level, below your hips.
Drink plenty of fluids to counteract the dehydrating effect of the low humidity in
Try to rest as much as possible while away. Exercise and activity during pregnancy
are important, but try not to overdo it.
Special considerations for traveling while breastfeeding
Breastfeeding gives babies the most nutritional start in life. It also gives them
important protection against certain infections. However, traveling internationally
while nursing can present challenges. Outlined below is information breastfeeding
moms should consider when traveling.
For women who are breastfeeding only, there is no concern about sterilizing bottles
or the availability of clean water. Nursing women may be immunized for protection
against disease, depending on their itinerary. However, there may be certain diseases,
like yellow fever, measles, and meningococcal meningitis. These may be a threat to
infants who cannot be immunized at birth. It is important to discuss this with both
your healthcare provider or midwife and your infant's care giver before you travel.
For women who are feeding their babies formula, powdered formula prepared with boiled
water is the best solution. You may also want to carry a supply of prepared infant
formula in cans or ready-to-feed bottles for emergencies.
Breastfeeding helps lower the incidence of traveler's diarrhea in infants. If you
should develop traveler's diarrhea, increase your fluid intake, and continue to nurse
It is important for nursing mothers to watch their eating and sleeping patterns, as
well as their stress levels. This will affect their milk output. Be sure to increase
your fluid intake, and avoid alcohol and caffeine, as well as exposure to smoke.