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What restrictions do train lines place on pregnant travelers?

Train lines such as Amtrak have no restrictions for pregnant travelers. As a general policy, railways suggest that pregnant passengers check with their doctor or midwife before traveling (good advice for any type of trip).

What are the pros and cons of train travel?

Pros: The rhythmic rocking motion, steady clickety-clack of the wheels against the tracks, and the landscape unfolding outside your window make trains an especially appealing mode of travel for moms-to-be. Statistically, train travel is one of the safest ways to go — and it can be one of the most comfortable, too.

You'll enjoy greater freedom of movement than in a car, bus, or plane. It's easy to walk around and stretch your legs, provided you watch out for unexpected lurches and moving floor panels between cars. Since you don't have to worry about negotiating traffic, you can read a book, listen to music, or simply close your eyes and drift away.

Restrooms tend to be numerous (usually one per car) if not always super-clean or freshly stocked with supplies. Many trains have dining cars or snack bars, though prices can be steep and the quality and variety of the food limited. Sleeping compartments can seem cramped when you're pregnant, but are usually more comfortable than the alternative on a plane or bus or in a car.

Other pluses: Train tickets are often cheaper than airfares, train stations easier and less expensive to reach than airports, and connections more direct than when flying between medium-size cities and small towns. In European and other countries trains are the transportation of choice — they're very convenient and often downright luxurious. Beautifully restored private trains travel scenic routes in the U.S. and Canada; check the Steam Passenger Service Directory (Kalmbach Publishing Company) for listings of tourist trains in the United States.

Cons: While planes can whisk you across the country in around five hours, trains take several days. Bench-style seating, still common on many short-distance runs, can be hard on the bottom and back. Some trains lack seat belts, which could put you at greater risk in an accident. Also, some cars are hot and stuffy, while others are drafty and cold. And except in certain major train stations, porters may not be available to help with luggage.

How can I make train travel more comfortable?

It's worth paying the higher fare to book a sleeping compartment if you're taking an overnight or extended train trip. Make sure you reserve a lower berth for ease of use, but avoid noisy compartments directly over the wheels. If you're traveling on Amtrak, ask for a compartment with separate bathroom facilities, instead of one with beds that must be raised to get to the toilet. Request a blanket and a pillow from a porter as soon as you board. (Consider bringing your own blanket and pillow to be safe.) Since you're at greater risk for blood clots when you're pregnant, be sure to get up and walk around every hour to keep your circulation moving.

It's a good idea to bring along some of your own food (especially fresh fruits and vegetables), since dining car fare may amount to cellophane-wrapped sandwiches and snack food, often at exorbitant prices. If possible, pack only what you can carry or roll in a suitcase on wheels, since you may not be able to find a porter. If you know you're going to need help with your bags or boarding the train, call a ticket agent at least 24 hours before you travel to ask about special services. You may be able to request special meals, too.

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