DEAR DOCTOR K: My job requires a lot of travel, and I recently became pregnant with my first child. What do I need to know about traveling safely during pregnancy?
DEAR READER: Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stay at home for nine months. There are exceptions; particularly in the last three months, some women develop complications of pregnancy that require them to be resting. But for most women, travel poses no threat during pregnancy.
But travel by car, train or airplane can be less comfortable when you’re pregnant, so you should take a few precautions to travel comfortably and safely.
First, check with your obstetrical care provider to find out when he or she considers it safe for you to travel. Travel is generally considered safe during the first and second trimesters. In terms of comfort, the best time to travel is after your fourth month (when morning sickness is gone) and before your third trimester.
I do think it’s wise to avoid traveling long distances in the last month before your due date, as due dates can be uncertain and babies can come early. Ask your doctor if he or she recommends that you limit long-distance travel even earlier. Airlines also have their own rules. Most airlines prohibit international travel after 32 weeks of pregnancy and domestic travel after 34 to 36 weeks.
At the airport, don’t worry about passing through metal detectors and scanners. They have very low levels of radiation that will not be harmful to you or your baby.
Once on the plane, don’t sit for more than one hour at a time if you can avoid it. Walk around and stretch your legs frequently to reduce leg cramps. If you must stay in your seat, move your arms and legs to improve blood flow and prevent blood clots from forming. (The same advice applies if you are driving: Take breaks every hour for a short walk.) And always wear a seat belt on an airplane.
Finally, drink at least six to eight glasses of water each day. This will keep you from getting dehydrated and will also prevent you from retaining water.
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