Travel during pregnancy

Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to be stuck at home. If you’re going on a business trip or taking a vacation, there are ways you can stay healthy and safe when traveling during pregnancy.

Is it safe to travel when you’re pregnant?

If you have a healthy pregnancy, it’s usually safe to travel. But talk to your health care provider before planning any trip.

If you have a health condition, such as heart disease, or if you’ve had pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes, your provider may suggest you limit travel.

Even if your pregnancy is healthy, tell your provider about your travel plans. You may need to rearrange your prenatal care visits so you don’t miss any while you’re away.

When is the best time to travel during pregnancy?

The best time to travel depends on how you feel. Many pregnant women like to travel during the second trimester. At this time, you may not have as much morning sickness or be as tired as you were at the beginning of your pregnancy. And while your belly’s getting bigger, it’s still comfortable for you to move around. As you get closer to your due date, walking, sitting and even sleeping can be very uncomfortable.

During the second trimester, you’re also less likely to have a pregnancy emergency, such as miscarriage or preterm labor. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Preterm labor is labor that happens too early, before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

How can you get ready for your trip?

Plan ahead and follow these tips to stay safe when traveling during pregnancy:

  • Ask your airline if they have a cut-off time for traveling during pregnancy. You can fly on most airlines up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. But if you’re flying out of the country, the cut-off time may be earlier.
  • Check to see what medical care your health insurance covers. Health insurance helps you pay for medical care. Most insurance plans cover emergency medical care no matter where you are. But you need to know what your plan means by “emergency” to know exactly what it will pay for.
  • Think about buying travel insurance. This is insurance you buy in addition to your regular health insurance. It covers you for medical care while traveling in another country. You also can buy travel insurance that refunds some of your costs if you have to cancel your trip. Visit USA.gov to learn more about the different kinds of travel insurance.
  • Learn about medical care available where you’re headed. Your provider may be able to recommend a provider in the area where you’re going. If you’re traveling in the United States, you can find a provider through the American Medical Association. If you’re traveling overseas, find a provider through the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers’ database.
  • Pack a copy of your medical records, your provider’s phone number, your prenatal vitamins and any medicine you need. Keep these things in your purse, a carry-on or a bag you plan to have with you at all times. This way, they’re always handy.
  • Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information about vaccinations, managing health conditions during your trip and other ways you can stay healthy during travel.
  • If you can, travel with someone. Don’t travel alone if you don’t have to.

When should you seek medical care?

If you have any of the following signs and symptoms during your trip, get medical help right away:

How can you stay safe when traveling by plane?

If your pregnancy is healthy, it’s usually safe to travel by plane.

Follow these tips when traveling by air:

  • If you’ve had morning sickness during pregnancy, ask your provider if you can take medicine to help with nausea.
  • Book an aisle seat so you don't have to climb over other passengers when you need to get up to use the restroom or walk around. Try sitting towards the front of the plane where the ride feels smoother.
  • Drink plenty of water. Don’t drink carbonated drinks, such as soda. And don’t eat foods, such as beans, that may cause gas. Gas in your belly can expand at high altitudes and make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Fasten your seat belt when you’re in your seat. This can help keep you from getting hurt in case of turbulence. Turbulence happens when the air around a flying plane causes a bumpy ride.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Flex your ankles during the flight, and take a walk when it's safe to leave your seat. Doing these things can help your blood flow and lower your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot inside a vein. Sitting for long stretches of time during any kind of travel raises your chances of having DVT. Ask your health care provider if you should wear support stockings during your flight. They may help prevent DVT. But if you have diabetes or problems with blood circulation, you probably shouldn’t wear them.
  • Tell the flight attendant if you feel sick or very uncomfortable during your flight. Contact your provider as soon as you can.

How can you stay safe when traveling by car?

If you're pregnant and traveling by car, follow these tips:

  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Try not to drive more than 5 to 6 hours per day. If you can, break your trip into several days with shorter drive times each day.
  • During long drives, drink water, wear loose-fitting clothes and take breaks to get out of the car to walk around and stretch. And ask your provider if you should wear support stockings. Doing these things can lower your risk of DVT. Don’t turn off your car’s air bags. Airbags can keep you and your baby safe in a crash.
  • Tilt your seat and move it as far as possible from the dashboard or steering wheel. If you’re driving, though, make sure you can reach the foot pedals.
  • If you’re in an accident, get medical help right away.

How can you stay safe when traveling by ship?

If you’re pregnant and traveling on a ship, such as a cruise vacation, follow these tips:

  • Call your cruise line to confirm that a health care provider will be on the ship at all times. Ask what medical care may be available at each port stop. Ask if your ship has passed a CDC health inspection.
  • Ask your provider if you can take medicine to help prevent or treat sea sickness.
  • Wash your hands often and wash any fruits and vegetables you eat during the cruise to help avoid getting infections.

How can you stay safe when traveling out of the country?

If your pregnancy is healthy, it may be safe for you to travel abroad. But check with your provider before you make plans. If you have certain pregnancy complications, such as incompetent cervix (when the cervix opens too early), or if you’re pregnant with twins, triplets or more, your provider may recommend that you not travel out of the country.

If you’re thinking about traveling out of the country, follow these tips:

  • Talk to your provider about your travel plans. Ask about pregnancy complications and if it’s safe to travel to the country you’re planning to visit. Ask your provider about vaccinations you need before your trip and about taking medicine with you.
  • Find out what your health insurance covers when traveling outside the country. And think about buying travel insurance.
  • Find a provider or a medical center in the country you’re planning to visit before you leave home. Look for a center where providers can manage pregnancy complications, perform emergency cesarean sections (c-sections) and care for premature babies. The International Association for Medical Assistance can help find this kind of information.
  • Make sure the country you’re planning to visit regularly screens stored blood for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. This is very important if you need a blood transfusion or if your baby is at risk of Rh-disease. Visit the U. S. Department of State website for information on blood screening by country.
  • Take a copy of your medical records with you. Know what your blood type is.
  • Register with the American embassy or consulate once you arrive. Staff there can help if you need to get out of the country during an emergency.
  • If you don’t speak the local language, take a dictionary.

Last reviewed October 2012

See also: Seatbelts during pregnancy, Traveling with your baby

Most common questions

Is air travel safe during pregnancy?

If your pregnancy is healthy, it’s usually safe to travel by plane. Follow these tips when traveling by air:
  • Ask your airline if they have a cut-off time for traveling during pregnancy. You can fly on most airlines up to 36 weeks of pregnancy. But if you’re flying out of the country, the cut-off time may be earlier.
  • If you’ve had morning sickness during pregnancy, ask your provider if you can take medicine to help with nausea.
  • Book an aisle seat so you don't have to climb over other passengers when you need to get up to use the restroom or walk around. Try sitting towards the front of the plane where the ride feels smoother.
  • Drink plenty of water. Don’t drink carbonated drinks, such as soda. And don’t eat foods, such as beans, that may cause gas.Gas in your belly can expand at high altitudes and make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Fasten your seat belt when you’re in your seat. This can help keep you from getting hurt in case of turbulence. Turbulence happens when the air around a flying plane causes a bumpy ride.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Flex your ankles during the flight, and take a walk when it's safe to leave your seat. Doing these things can help your blood flow and lower your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot inside a vein. Sitting for long stretches of time during any kind of travel raises your chances of having DVT. Ask your health care provider if you should wear support stockings during your flight. They may help prevent DVT. But if you have diabetes or problems with blood circulation, you probably shouldn’t wear them.
  • Tell the flight attendant if you feel sick or very uncomfortable during your flight. Contact your health care provider as soon as you can.

Is it safe to get or have a tattoo during pregnancy?

It's best to wait until after having your baby to get one. Here's why: Hepatitis B, a dangerous liver infection, and HIV/AIDS are two of many diseases that can be passed along through bodily fluids. This means you can catch these diseases if you get a tattoo from someone who uses a dirty needle. And you can pass these diseases along to your baby during pregnancy.

We don't know how tattoo dyes and inks affect a developing baby. Small amounts of chemicals that might be harmless to an adult can have a much bigger impact on a growing baby.

Most healthcare providers will give an epidural to a woman with a tattoo on her lower back. But they may decide not to if the tattoo is recent and fresh. If you have a tattoo on your back and are considering getting an epidural for pain relief during childbirth, find out what the hospital's policy is before you're admitted.

Is it safe to get spa treatments during pregnancy?

Some spa treatments are safe. Others may be more painful than usual. And some - like mud baths - are a bad idea while you're pregnant.

Any spa treatments that raise your body temperature (like mud baths, hot wax and seaweed wraps) are almost always unsafe during pregnancy. Steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas also raise your body temperature. They can make you dehydrated and overheated. This can be dangerous for you and your baby. Avoid these treatments while you're pregnant.

Be careful with skin treatments like facials and body scrubs. During pregnancy, your skin changes a lot and may be extra sensitive. Before you cover your whole body with a product, test it on a small area of skin to be sure it doesn't irritate.

Getting your eyebrows done and having your bikini line waxed are usually safe during pregnancy, but they may feel more painful to your sensitive skin.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).