Mothers-to-be need to plan their air travel with some extra care, advises Aslan Shand
Flying while pregnant: The second trimester is generally considered the best time to travel; nonetheless, it is important to check with your doctor that there are no medical reasons not to fly before booking your tickets. If you have experienced high blood pressure or bleeding, or if you are prone to swelling, such as in your ankles, your doctor may recommend you don’t fly.
Most airlines will allow pregnant women to fly internationally until 35 or 36 weeks (check with individual airlines) for a normal, healthy pregnancy and until 32 weeks for a multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets). Carrying a medical certificate if you are more than 24 weeks pregnant is recommended. Check in early, as you can request a bulkhead seat, which may have more leg room, depending on the airline, or ask for an aisle seat so that it is easier to get in and out.
Vaccinations: Normally, typhoid and hepatitis A and B vaccinations are recommended for Asia and Africa. However, typhoid vaccination is not recommended for pregnant women. Hepatitis A and B shots can be given; there is no evidence of fetal damage, though there is limited research on the fetal effects of these vaccinations.
Travelling to areas where there is a risk of contracting malaria is not recommended while pregnant.
In Australia, typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations aren’t advised for children under six. The recommendation for children is that they are up-to-date with their immunisations.
Always check with your doctor as to which vaccinations are required as they will vary depending on your situation and itinerary.
Avoiding hepatitis A and typhoid: Brush your teeth with, and drink, only bottled water. Check that ice for your drinks is made from distilled water or don’t have it. Don’t eat raw vegetables, salad and fruit. Thick-skinned fruits such as mandarins, which you peel yourself, or bananas are fine. Always wash your hands with soap or antibacterial hand wash before eating.
(Consider carrying a purse-sized bottle of antibacterial gel; Purell hand sanitiser, for example, air-dries in seconds, has a fresh aloe vera fragrance and is available from most chemists in a 60ml travel pack.)
Deep vein thrombosis: Pregnancy can increase the risk of developing blood clots, which can cause deep vein thrombosis. It’s highly recommended to wear thigh-high flight socks or tight stockings to aid blood circulation and reduce the chance of DVT. Flight socks can be purchased at most chemists.
While in flight do the recommended exercises described in the in-flight magazine; also walk around the plane regularly when the seatbelt signs are off.
Travel insurance: Most travel insurance covers women up until 26 weeks of pregnancy, though this excludes childbirth or the health of a newborn child. You can still buy standard travel insurance after this point but it doesn’t cover anything related to the pregnancy.
Travel insurance that covers you and the pregnancy after 26 weeks is available from some insurers. It is assessed on a case-bycase basis and excludes cover for the birth of a baby. Student Travel Australia provides cover, excluding the birth, through QBE insurance; you will need to fill out a medical appraisal form to have your application assessed. www.statravel.com.au.