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General Recommendations for Travel during Pregnancy

A pregnant woman should be advised to travel with at least one companion; she should also be advised that, during her pregnancy, her level of comfort may be adversely affected by traveling. Table 8-06 lists the most serious risks that pregnant women face during international travel.

Typical problems of pregnant travelers are the same as those experienced by any pregnant woman: fatigue, heartburn, indigestion, constipation, vaginal discharge, leg cramps, increased frequency of urination, and hemorrhoids. During travel, pregnant women can take preventive measures, including avoiding gas-producing food or drinks before scheduled flights (entrapped gases can expand at higher altitudes) and periodically moving the legs (to decrease venous stasis). Pregnant women should always use seatbelts while seated, as air turbulence is not predictable and may cause significant trauma.

Signs and symptoms that indicate the need for immediate medical attention are vaginal bleeding, passing tissue or clots, abdominal pain or cramps, contractions, ruptured membranes, excessive leg swelling or pain, headaches, or visual problems.

Table 8-06. Greatest risks for pregnant travelers

Motor vehicle accidents
  • Safety belts should be worn whenever possible.
  • Fasten seatbelts at the pelvic area, not across the lower abdomen. Lap and shoulder restraints are best.
  • In most accidents, the fetus recovers quickly from the safety belt pressure. However, consult a physician even for mild trauma.
Hepatitis E
  • Hepatitis E is not vaccine preventable and is especially dangerous in pregnant women.
  • As with other enteric infections, pregnant women should be advised that the best preventive measures are to avoid potentially contaminated water and food.
Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving should be avoided in pregnancy because of the risk of decompression syndrome in the fetus.

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