The Pre-Baby Vacation

Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005

Your little prince or princess is due to arrive soon, meaning dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and oh, the joys of parenthood. But before baby comes forth into this world, you want one last taste of freedom with a vacation of your choosing -- it's called the babymoon.

By Heather Hatfield
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

The nursery is ready, you're stocked up on onesies, and you've got the market cornered on diapers. You are ready for baby to come -- well, almost. Before you pack your bag and get ready for your highly anticipated trip to the hospital, pack it for a babymoon, instead.

The babymoon is the new way to describe the pre-baby vacation, before you can use the word parent to describe yourself. It's your curtain call, your last hoorah, your encore. But whether its to Hawaii, Timbuktu, or a B&B around the corner, vacationing while with child calls for some extra consideration. Experts give WebMD traveling dos and don'ts for expectant moms.

Before You Go

Before you call the travel agent and book your trip, the first thing you should do is talk to your doctor, especially if you are in the third trimester.

"Be absolutely certain that there are no risk factors for premature pregnancy," says Thomas Ivester, MD, from the division of maternal fetal medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "I think the biggest risk is that you are far from home when you deliver."

With timing in mind, the safest window of opportunity for a pregnant woman to travel is during the second trimester, or 18-24 weeks, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG).

"While weeks 18-24 may be the safest time to travel, that doesn't exclude the rest of your pregnancy. There are just more safety issues in the first and third trimesters to consider," says Sandra Cesario, MD, from the College of Nursing at Texas Woman's University in Houston.

"Those first few weeks, you may be nauseated and tired, and it's not a good time to travel."

Also, schedule your vacation around your prenatal visits. While this trip is important, so are your trips to the doctor.

Where to Babymoon

While dashing off to an exotic location sounds nice, it's not necessarily practical. So what do you need to consider before you book a trip to the jungles of Belize while pregnant?

First, if you decide to travel internationally, you should consult with your obstetrician to evaluate both the quality of care that will be available at your exotic location of choice and what preventive measures, like vaccinations, should be taken before you go.

"If you are traveling to another country, you should check if that country requires immunizations," says Khalil Tabsh, MD, chief of obstetrics at UCLA. "If it's not a live vaccine, it is OK. If it is live, then you should check with your obstetrician." Live virus vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, and yellow fever.

You should also consider altitude when picking your vacation spot. The CDC recommends that all pregnant women avoid altitudes higher than 13,100 feet, and in high-risk or late-stage pregnancies, avoid destinations higher than 8,200 feet -- so save the trip to Mt. Everest for another day.

Finally, do you fly or drive? The ACOG states that women can fly safely up to 36 weeks into their pregnancies.

"If you are flying, check to see if there are any restrictions with the airline you've chosen," says Cesario. "There are certain airline policies that do require a letter from your doctor that it's safe for you to travel while pregnant -- you'd hate to plan a trip and find the airline won't let you get on."

Packing Your Bag

Your doctor has given you the green light, and you are ready for the babymoon to begin. What should you do next, other than pack a pair of flip flops and a sarong?

  • Check that you will have access to quality medical facilities at your travel destination, in case you need them. "I would take a complete list of contact information for your doctors," says Ivester. "I would also carry along contact information for qualified or highly-rated health-care facilities in the area where you are traveling, in case you need them."

  • Ensure your health insurance is valid while abroad, and to be on the safe side, the CDC suggests getting a supplemental travel insurance policy and a prepaid medical evaluation insurance policy.

  • Know your blood type, and find out if the blood supply where you are going is screened for HIV and hepatitis B.

Babymoon Dos and Don'ts

You're booked, packed, and ready to go. Here are some tips to keep in mind while traveling while expecting.

Flying the friendly skies. When flying, the ACOG recommends that pregnant women get up and walk every half hour if possible and flex and extend their ankles frequently to prevent blood clots. Also, wear your seat belt under your belly, and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Road trips. "Appropriate seat belt use is very important -- buckle it below the bulge of the belly," says Cesario. "It's a big deal because there is a myth that seat belts will hurt the baby, when they really save lives and it's always safer to wear it."

Always travel with a companion. Remember that while you may be on vacation, your heartburn, leg cramps, and frequent bathroom trips are not, so a travel partner at the very least will give you sympathy. More practically, your companion can search for a bathroom for you when you're in the middle of nowhere and need to go.

Know when to seek medical attention. "If a pregnant woman has bleeding, cramping, fever, pain, or contractions, she should seek medical care immediately, wherever she is," says Tabsh.

Don't drink the water. If you're in California, don't worry about it. But if you're in the rain forest in South America, don't drink the water. According to the CDC, hepatitis E, which can be contracted through water, is not vaccine preventable and can be especially dangerous for pregnant women.

"Pregnant women should drink bottled water when traveling in developing areas," says Tabsh. "Also make sure that the meat you eat is thoroughly cooked when traveling, and avoid salads, which might have been washed with tap water that isn't clean."

Avoid mosquitoes more so than usual. Diseases like malaria can be more severe in pregnant women and harmful to a fetus, according to the CDC. So avoid insects by wearing proper clothing, remaining indoors during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, using bed nets, and applying DEET-containing repellents. Also, talk to your doctor about preventive medicine.

"If you are traveling to endemic areas of malaria, you should be on anti-malarial medication," says Tabsh.

Avoid scuba diving and anything with impact. "Anything that might have a high impact or high risk of falling, like bicycling or skiing, should be avoided," says Ivester. "Also avoid anything with extreme pressure changes, like scuba diving."

Relax while you still can. "Make it a relaxing vacation," says Cesario. "Enjoy yourself and try not to do too much."

Published Aug. 24, 2004.

SOURCES: Sandra Cesario, MD, College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston; co-chairwoman, continuum of newborn care advisory panel, Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. Thomas Ivester, MD, division of maternal fetal medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Khalil Tabsh, MD, chief of obstetrics, UCLA. CDC. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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