The holiday season is one that many of us look forward to with such excitement and anticipation as it is the time we get to relax, meet up with relatives and friends we haven’t seen in a long time, as well as get to travel and explore different places. After a year of hard work, the December holidays are always a welcome relief to us.
However, for pregnant women who plan to travel, there are pieces of information that she should be knowledgeable about. Can she even travel in the first place? Are all means of transport safe for her or should she avoid some? What if she has experienced some complications in her pregnancy before –can she still travel? Well, I spoke to Dr. Stephen Mutiso, a gynaecologist at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) who offered more insights.
Maryanne: Can a Pegnant Woman Travel Long Distance by Road or Rail?
Dr. Mutiso: Pregnant women travelling long distance should be wary about the risk of blood clot formation – a condition known as Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT). DVT occurs due to stasis of blood in the lower limbs for a long time. Travelling long distances causes prolonged stasis of blood which can cause clot formation. Blood clots could be fatal.
Although long distance travel is not contraindicated for healthy pregnant women, it is important to take certain precautions to reduce the risk of DVT. Pregnant women traveling long distances by road or train are therefore advised to take 30 minutes breaks every two hours. During these breaks, they should walk around to improve blood flow from the legs.
Maryanne: How about Air Travel?
Dr. Mutiso: Just like road and rail travel, it is recommended that a pregnant woman traveling by air takes frequent breaks to stretch her legs and improve blood circulation in them for purposes of preventing the formation of blood clots. This is especially for flights that last many hours.
She should also know that air travel in pressurized airplanes for pregnant women is usually allowed up to 36 weeks. However, a doctor’s recommendation on a pregnant woman’s fitness to fly –even before 36 weeks is usually required by some airlines. So before you travel, check with the airline first.
Maryanne: Can She Travel if She’s Experienced Pregnancy Complications Before?
Dr. Mutiso: It’s not advisable for pregnant women who are already experiencing complications to travel. Some of these complications include; high blood pressure, rupture of membranes, premature labour and bleeding in pregnancy. It is not advisable for her to engage in unnecessary risk. But if at all she must travel, then she is advised to consult with her doctor before she does so.
Maryanne: How Far Can a Pregnant Woman Travel?
Dr. Mutiso: Pregnant women nearing their due date -usually from 36 weeks are not advised to travel far from the facility where they intend to deliver, because labour can begin earlier than expected.
It is also important to know that adequate hydration is crucial while travelling, and even more so for pregnant women. This is because lack of water in the body (dehydration) is a risk factor for clot formation. While travelling, it is advisable for every pregnant woman to take plenty of fluids –especially water to prevent dehydration.
Maryanne: Who Should be on her Speed Dial?
It is very important for her to have the contacts (especially mobile phone number) of her gynaecologist or antenatal care provider close by during the festive season. This is crucial especially if she should unfortunately get a problem while away from her provider. In such a case, her doctor would advise her accordingly, and if it is a problem that would require urgent attention, then the doctor would then be able to link her up with a colleague working in the area, or make contact with the closest health facility because most doctors have good networks across the country. The pregnant woman would get assistance at the hospital before he can get to her.
If she doesn’t have the contacts of her doctor, she should then take it upon herself to find out the nearest hospitals to her, incase of an emergency. She should also not forget to carry along her NHIF card or other medical insurance card as these can come in very handy when needed.
Dr. Stephen Mutiso is based at KNH Doctor’s Plaza, Suite 26/27
Tel: 0722 678 002 or 0788 306 674