Planning to take your belly on the road? Here are some tips on staying comfortable whether you're travelling by plane, train, or car.
Before you leave home
• Discuss your travel plans with your doctor or midwife. If you're experiencing a high-risk pregnancy or your due date is fast approaching, your caregiver may want you to stay relatively close to home (e.g. within a three hour drive) in case some complications arise or your baby decides to make an unscheduled early arrival. Even if your caregiver gives you the go-ahead to venture a little farther a field, she may want you to take a copy of your prenatal record with you. That way, if you unexpectedly run into complications while you're travelling, the doctor on call at whatever hospital or clinic you end up visiting will have the lowdown on your medical and obstetrical history.
• Make sure that your health coverage is adequate if you will be travelling out of province or out of country. Most health insurance policies for travellers do not apply to women who are more than seven months pregnant, so be sure to let your travel agent know about your pregnancy when you're purchasing such coverage.
• Dress in layers of comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. As your prenatal instructor no doubt told you, the hormonal changes of pregnancy cause your body temperature to shoot up while you're pregnant. If you make the mistake of hopping on board an airplane wearing a long-sleeved wool dress, you won't have the option of removing a layer or two if you become overheated (unless, of course, you intend to carry your entire maternity wardrobe in your carry-on luggage or you're willing to pull a Demi Moore at 20,000 feet).
• Pack some healthy snacks to enjoy while you're on the road. Rather than having to rely on french fries and other fast foods while you're travelling -- not exactly the most stomach-friendly cuisine if your world is being rocked by morning sickness! -- you may prefer to eat fresh fruit, granola bars, and healthier (and less nauseating) foods instead. And don't forget to tote along a purse-sized bottle of water if you're going to be travelling by plane: you'll want to have your own ready supply of water on hand to counter the dehydrating effects of air travel just in case the beverage cart doesn't make it down the aisle as quickly as you might like.
• Bring a small pillow or rolled-up towel with you. Placing it in the small of your back will help to reduce the amount of back discomfort you experience as a result of sitting in one position for prolonged periods of time.
If you're travelling by car
• Set a realistic travel itinerary for yourself. Your days of whizzing down the highway for hours at a time with not so much as a single bathroom break are a thing of the past -- at least for now. In fact, if you're like most pregnant women, you're likely to find yourself mapping out your route based on washroom availability -- the ultimate roadside attraction at this stage in your life.
• If your car has airbags, you'll want to make sure that there is at least a ten inch gap between your belly and the dash. (Hint: You may have to move your seat back a little if you're mega-pregnant.) And while we're talking positioning, here's something important to keep in mind if you're the driver: you should tilt the steering wheel downward so that it's far as possible from your belly to minimize the risk of injury to your baby in the event of a car accident.
• Wear your seatbelt. Your seatbelt should be fastened across your hips and underneath your belly (as opposed to across your belly). This will help to reduce the risk of injury to you and your baby in the event of an automobile accident. If the seatbelt has a shoulder belt, make sure that it is positioned between your breasts. (Hint: If the shoulder belt is chaffing your neck, try moving your seat back a little or purchasing a seatbelt pad. That usually does the trick.)
If you're travelling by plane
• Make sure you're clear about airline policies concerning pregnant travellers before you book your flight. Policies vary from airline to airline, but most carriers require some sort of doctor's certificate from any pregnant woman who is travelling during the mid- to late third trimester.
• If you're heading to exotic locales, make sure that any immunizations that are required can be safely administered during pregnancy. It's best to avoid live vaccines and certain other types of vaccines during pregnancy.
• Get out of your seat and move around whenever the opportunity presents itself. This will help to minimize leg cramps and ankle swelling. (Don't worry about setting the alarm on your watch to remind yourself to do this: your bladder will encourage you to make washroom treks on a regular basis!) If you end up being confined to your seat for a prolonged period of time, do calf stretches or rotate your ankles -- whatever you can reasonably do to stretch your legs while you're stuck in one spot.
• If you're prone to varicose veins, you might want to pick up a pair of support hose (vascular tightening stockings) from your local medical supply store before you hop on board the plane. Flying increases your risk of developing varicose veins.
Above all, have fun and enjoy your trip. Bon voyage!
Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, and numerous other books about pregnancy and parenting. You can contact Ann via her website at www.having-a-baby.com.