Foreign Travel While Pregnant
Be mindful of visa restrictions, medical issues while abroad
While your instincts might tempt you to stick close to home at this time, foreign travel is not out of the question while pregnant. Business trips happen, family obligations call, pleasure jaunts beckon. A little forethought, care and calculation of risk are in order, depending on where you’re going.
Modern, developed, so-called “first world” locations are not so much of a concern as they tend to have clean water, hygienic food-handling practices and adequate healthcare standards should you need it. However, sometimes micro-organisms in the food and water from one perceived “safe” location can cause gastro-intestinal mishaps in the digestive tract of someone from another location just because they are new and different. Take this into consideration before deciding to venture abroad.
Here’s a little known fact – when traveling to Singapore in the latter stages of pregnancy, you may be required to carry a letter stating you will not seek citizenship should you happen to deliver the baby there. Check with your destination’s embassy (don’t rely on your travel agent) for little-known policies such as this.
It’s really the lesser developed or remote locations that are of most concern to a pregnant traveler. Risks you might readily take on your own must be weighed in the context that you’re now with child.
Food and Water Safety
Be cautious of areas where food and water safety is questionable. Traveler’s diarrhea is unpleasant for anyone, but it can lead to serious dehydration for a pregnant woman, which increases risk for premature labor. Note that anti-diarrheal medications aren’t an option while you’re expecting.
- Boil any suspect water rather than using iodine purifiers.
- Eat only pasteurized dairy products (and no soft cheeses), and thoroughly cooked meats (even cold cuts and smoked salmon are suspect).
- Stay away from fresh fruits and vegetables that you haven’t peeled yourself and avoid salads (often ingredients are washed in unpurified water), as diseases like toxoplasmosis and listeria can lead to serious complications for pregnant women.
Infectious Diseases and Immunizations
Consult with your doctor about any immunizations that might be required for your intended destination. Not all vaccines are recommended for pregnant patients.
For example, live vaccines such as varicella (chicken pox), measles, mumps and rubella should be avoided. Together, you will have to weigh the potential risks of contracting the disease against the theoretical risks of the vaccination.
Ideally, you should get vaccinated about 3 months before you get pregnant, but that kind of advanced planning is not always possible.
You can learn more by checking out our list of vaccines for pregnant travelers.
Wherever you go, keep the name and number of your doctor or midwife handy, plus take a copy of your medical records.
Research some local healthcare providers and facilities where you’re going so you can be prepared for any kind of prenatal health concern, question or complication, especially if you are traveling in your last trimester. Find out if the local blood banks screen for HIV and Hepatitis B, and make sure you know your own blood type and Rh factor.
If language is a potential barrier, bring a multi-lingual dictionary so you can better communicate with the locals on health and other matters. Most doctors around the world tend to speak English, but don’t count on it.
Make sure your health insurance policy covers your intended destination and doesn’t exclude pregnancy as a pre-existing condition. Your pregnant status may be considered a “high risk” condition as potential for medical complication, repatriation or trip cancellation increases. You may need additional coverage.
Always disclose that you are pregnant, otherwise the policy may not be honored.