Pregnancy: When is it safe to travel?

The festive season is just around the corner and many plan on travelling to various destinations to embrace the cheerful spirit; but it will naturally pose a few hurdles for expectant mothers.
It is advisable for pregnant mothers to wear a seat belt when travelling. (Net photos)
It is advisable for pregnant mothers to wear a seat belt when travelling. (Net photos)

The festive season is just around the corner and many plan on travelling to various destinations to embrace the cheerful spirit; but it will naturally pose a few hurdles for expectant mothers.

Whether it is by road, plane, train, boat or any other means of transport, travelling while pregnant involves its own set of challenges and, therefore, specific cautious measures are needed for the safety of both the mother and the unborn baby.

 

According to Dr Teckle G.Egiziabher, a gynecologist from Rwanda Military Hospital Kanombe, travelling long distances when a woman is expecting is not advisable, whether it’s by car or plane because a prolonged journey sometimes causes complications with the pregnancy.

 

He says if an expectant mother has plans to travel it should be done when the pregnancy not over 34 to 36 weeks to avoid complications.

 

“If a woman has a complicated pregnancy, let’s say she has high blood pressure, severe anemia or hypertension, she is advised not to travel as it is the safest way to prevent any complications. Anything can happen when one is travelling, so it is much safer for mothers to travel after delivering,” Dr Egiziabher says.

He adds that, “Travelling a long distance necessitates one to endure prolonged sitting which can cause clotting of the blood and this can be dangerous to the health of an expecting mother, let alone that of the baby. That’s why it is important to discuss one’s current state of pregnancy with their obstetrician before they choose to travel.”

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It is also advisable that expectant mothers have their medical documents with when they make a long journey just in case of an emergency. Travelling on a bumpy road may affect the baby’s health or even the mother’s physical wellness leading to issues of discomfort such as backaches.

Take an instance of Yvette Mukabalisa, a first time mother, who almost had a miscarriage due to a long strenuous journey.

She was travelling upcountry and endured an eight-hour journey on a rough, bumpy road, which compromised the safety of her pregnancy.

“Travelling with a pregnancy is really tough, the heat and the congestion can really get to you; that’s why I felt dizzy throughout the journey. I was dehydrated and the bumps and potholes only made it worse for the journey as they made my back ache terribly,” Mukabalisa recounts.

She says with all the strain, it wasn’t long before she started getting contractions and she had to be rushed to a health centre before making it to her destination.

Clementine Ndayishimiye, a mother of four, says every expecting mother should always be extra careful because anything can lead to a complication in a pregnancy at any time.

“When a woman is pregnant she is carrying lives of two people and, therefore, extra caution is needed. Journeys should be postponed till one delivers, unless the trip is really urgent and essential,” Ndayishimiye advises.

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Experts say it is okay to travel after 30 weeks as long as one is not carrying more than one child. However, having complications such as placenta previa or having a history of preterm labour makes it completely unsafe for an expecting woman to travel.

According to Dr Claude Bimenyimana, a general practitioner, an expectant mother traveling is not recommended, but if it is to happen it should be done at least in the second trimester.

“The best time to travel might be at least in the middle of the pregnancy - about 14 to 28 weeks - because at this time one is likely to be feeling well and the risks of miscarriage and premature labour are at the lowest. More so, the ordeal of the morning sickness is in most cases done with and the energy levels are higher,” he says.

However, if the pregnant mother has medical problems such as spotting or having high blood pressure, one should first check with the doctor before travelling, he says.

Pregnant women can be at an increased risk of becoming infected or even developing severe complications from certain conditions which can also affect the unborn baby.

Dr Bimenyimana advises that if a pregnant woman decides to travel, she should at least try to limit the amount of travel time to not more than six hours. And that while travelling for instance in a car, she should take advantage of resting points and take short walks or do stretches to keep the blood circulating.

There are also some medications that are used to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. These may be of great help and can be effective in dealing with motion sickness just in case it is experienced during the journey.

However, with careful preparation, travelling when a woman is expecting can be safe, especially if one follows the proper precautions.

Experts advise that medical attention should immediately be sought if an expectant mother travelling experiences symptoms such as abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding and contractions among others.

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According to research done by the American Pregnancy Association, avoiding travel from 32 weeks through birth is recommended for women who have complicated pregnancies with risk factors for premature labour, such as mothers carrying multiples.

The research also points out that diarrhea is more of a common concern, especially when travelling overseas, because one may not be used to the germs and organisms found in the food and water of other countries; this as a result can lead to a problem of dehydration.

One can bring out the best in their travel while Pregnant by; dressing comfortably in loose cotton clothing and wearing comfortable shoes.

Planning for plenty of rest stops, restroom breaks and stretches, carry snack foods, wearing a seat belt and taking other safety measures.

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Important tips to consider when driving while pregnant

There are some relevant points that we should concern ourselves with when dealing and allowing this type of situation. But before getting into these important points, let us first confirm that it is of preference that if you are a heavily pregnant woman or/and prone to some health complications or conditions, such as diabetes that can cause sudden blurred vision and dizziness, or experiencing severe Braxston Hicks contractions that can cause unexpected movements, irritation and distraction, it’s best you don’t put yourself in this clearly high risk situation.

If on the other hand you are still in early pregnancy and are not in any risk of sudden fainting and dizzy spells, nausea or sickness, there shouldn’t be any problem at all.

Below are some important tips and points to consider when driving while pregnant:

Whether you are behind the wheel or in the passenger’s seat, it’s hard to avoid riding in a car during pregnancy.

But as you get bigger and bigger, you are bound to hear more and more cautionary advice warning you to steer clear of driving. But not everyone can or wants to follow this advice. How risky is driving during pregnancy? And what can you do to cut down on the risk?

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Riding in a car during pregnancy is safe as long as you follow certain precautions, unless you have a particular medical condition that makes car rides unsafe. The first and most important step is to properly use a seatbelt.

This is the first rule of thumb for any passenger in any car, and it’s no different during pregnancy. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, some people actually worry more about the seatbelt across a pregnant woman’s belly than the risk that she could fly out the windshield or hit the dashboard on impact. Recent studies using a revolutionary crash dummy to simulate the effects of car accidents on pregnant women confirm that the best way to protect yourself and your unborn baby is to use your seatbelt properly. The best protection for pregnant women and their unborn babies is for the mother to wear her three point safety seatbelt (the standard seatbelt), and to wear it properly. This reduces the fetal injury risk significantly. Not only does the study conclude that seatbelts make a difference in protecting pregnant women and their unborn children, it also concludes that steering wheel airbags improve protection in frontal impacts.

However, just putting on a seatbelt is not enough – you have to use it the way it was designed to be used, which means never slipping the shoulder harness behind your back or tucking it under your arm. These can actually cause more harm to you or your baby.

It goes without saying that avoiding a crash is the best thing you can do. Just like any other time in your life, you should do your best to drive as safely as you can – take your unborn baby as an extra incentive to stop engaging in distracting behavior like talking or text messaging on your mobile or searching through your purse while you’re driving. Increasingly, research is confirming that this sort of distraction causes more accidents than anything else. So if you absolutely have to make that call, find those directions or solve your kids’ problems, pull over until you do.

If you do have an accident, you should seek prompt medical attention, even if you don’t feel like you’ve been hurt. Car accidents can result in potentially fatal placenta abruption where the placenta separates from the uterine wall, early labor, or damage to the fetus’s limbs and skull. Of course, if the mother is severely injured, this will affect the fetus.

Steps to proper seatbelt use

- Try not to sit too close to the steering wheel, so adjust the seat as far back as possible, while still allowing comfortable access to the pedals.

- Adjust the lap belt across your thighs, not over your belly.

- Position the shoulder harness across your chest, between your breasts, but to one side of your belly. Make sure the belt is not loose.

Tips for a comfortable trip!

- To make your journey more comfortable, take a break every hour or so to stretch your legs and ward off swelling.

- Stay on well paved roads.

- Take along a few healthy snacks and plenty of water.

Agencies

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