Pregnancy Health And Safety Travel Guide

This health and safety travel guide answers the top questions mums-to-be ask before heading overseas on holiday.

If you’re pregnant and planning a babymoon before the new family member arrives, you’re likely to have numerous questions.

  • When is it safe to travel overseas while pregnant?
  • Where should I go?
  • What should I add to the list of packing essentials?

Travelling while pregnant on a babymoon can be a safe and enjoyable holiday, so long as you take the time to plan your trip.

Make sure to keep your doctor in the loop and get their advice before travelling, as well as a letter from them in case you need to show it to the staff of an airline or cruise line.

This guide will answer the top questions mums-to-be ask before heading overseas on holiday. Read on to find out how you can make your babymoon as safe and stress-free as possible.

Once you have your travel plan in place it’s bon voyage!

Is It Safe To Travel While Pregnant?

The short answer is that yes, it's safe to for most women to travel on their pregnancies, but this varies depending on the method of travelling, destinations and personal circumstances.

Whether or not it’ll be safe for you to go overseas will be determined by your doctor or midwife. Depending on your health, your doctor or midwife may advise that it’s safe for you to travel through all three trimesters or they may recommend you stay closer to home.

As well as the guidelines set out by your doctor, your travel options may also be influenced by airlines and cruise lines. These organisations generally have restrictions regarding how far along in your pregnancy you can be while on board.

Furthermore, it’s important to recognise that some travel insurers may also have different restrictions for pregnant travellers. They may provide cover only up to a certain number of weeks of pregnancy, or some may not provide cover for pregnancy at all.

If you get the all-clear from your doctor, planning a trip which aligns with the restrictions of airlines, cruise lines and travel insurers can be safe. With some simple research and preparation, you can plan an enjoyable babymoon to relax before the arrival of your new baby.

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What Are The Risks Of Travelling While Pregnant?

Just because it’s technically “safe” to travel when pregnant doesn’t mean that there are no risks involved.

Your biggest concerns might include:

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Complications with the pregnancy

A complication can develop at any time but is more likely during the first and third trimesters. For example, you may experience Hyperemesis gravidarum or excessive vomiting during your first trimester, or premature birth in your third trimester.

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Access to medical care

Travelling to a remote area or being on a cruise ship can limit the availability or level of medical care available to you and your child. 

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Access to your regular doctor

If you’re away you won’t have access to your usual doctor or team of medical practitioners who are familiar with your medical history.

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Availability of your usual food and water

A particular concern when you’re out of the country is maintaining your diet, avoiding certain foods and having a constant source of clean drinking water. It may also be more difficult to satisfy pregnancy cravings in an unfamiliar country.

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Hygiene

Public facilities may not be as sanitary as those at home, especially if you’re travelling in rural or remote areas. You might also be concerned about food preparation in an unfamiliar country.

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Cancellation

Holidays can be costly and if you did have to cancel, postpone or change your holiday due to a pregnancy complication, you could be left significantly out of pocket.

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A few simple steps can help you manage these risks and concerns:
  1. Have a health check-up and get your doctor’s okay to travel.
  2. Choose a destination that has easily accessible medical care.
  3. Research nearby medical facilities and have a copy of their contact details.
  4. Research restaurants, food options and water quality before choosing your destination.
  5. Ensure you comply with airline and cruise line restrictions for pregnant travellers.
  6. Purchase travel insurance that provides cover for pregnancy, just in case an emergency does occur.

What Are The Signs You Should Not Travel During Pregnancy?

As exciting as the prospect of a trip may be while you’re pregnant, travelling may be a poor idea for several reasons.

Some examples may include:

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Your health

If you have a history of problematic pregnancies or have conditions such as heart disease, respiratory diseases, severe anaemia, recent haemorrhages or current or recent bone fractures, you should think twice about travelling (and double check whether your travel insurance can provide you with cover).

After reviewing your circumstances, your doctor may advise you against travelling.

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No insurance

If you’re carrying multiple babies (twins, triplets, or more), you’ve had complications during your current pregnancy, or you’re already in the later stages of the third trimester, your travel insurer may not cover you for pregnancy. This means you’d be responsible for any emergency medical expenses related to the pregnancy.

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Government or health warnings about travelling to your destination

Some destinations in the world pose higher risks for pregnant women due to local diseases. For example, some locations pose risks from diseases such as the Zika virus or malaria or have lower levels of sanitation.

When Is The Best Time To Travel?

How you feel is often the biggest consideration in deciding when to take your trip, but generally the second trimester (between 18 and 24 weeks pregnant) is the optimal time to go on a holiday.

Always discuss your travel plans with your doctor or obstetrician so that you can make an informed choice on the safest time to travel.

First trimester

Pros:
  • It’s easier to move around as you are yet to put on pregnancy weight and girth.
  • Various airlines and cruise lines will allow you on board.
  • Various travel insurers provide cover for pregnancy during its early stages.
Cons:
  • You’ll likely experience morning sickness.
  • You have a higher chance of miscarriage during this period.

Second trimester

Pros:
  • You’re more likely to be free from nausea.
  • The risk of miscarrying is lower.
  • Various airlines and cruise lines will allow you on board.
  • Various travel insurers will provide cover for the beginning of, or during the second trimester.

Third trimester

Pros:
  • Less morning sickness symptoms.
Cons:
  • You’ll likely have less energy.
  • Walking and sleeping can become more uncomfortable due to your growing belly.
  • You’re more likely to give birth prematurely.
  • Many travel insurers will not provide cover during this late stage of pregnancy.
  • Various airlines and cruise lines won’t accept travellers in the later stages of the third trimester of pregnancy.
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Can I Get Travel Insurance When I’m Pregnant?

A number of travel insurance companies provide cover for pregnancy, though how much cover you’re offered and the terms and conditions will vary between insurers and policies.

When you buy travel insurance you can be provided with cover for unexpected cancellations, emergency medical and dental coverage and lost or stolen luggage among other benefits. If you are pregnant some insurers will also cover various complications related to the pregnancy, although there’s often a specified number of weeks where they’ll provide this cover.

There are some travel insurance companies that can cover you up to 32 weeks of pregnancy for single births or 26 weeks for a multiple pregnancy. Others will only provide cover for single pregnancies for a shorter timeframe and some travel insurance companies don’t provide cover for pregnancy at all.

However, most companies will not cover you in these circumstances:

  • You’re beyond the company’s stated limit of cover for a single or multiple birth.
  • You’re going on a trip to obtain fertility treatment.
  • You have experienced complications prior to purchasing the policy.
  • You’re travelling against doctor’s advice.
  • You became pregnant through IVF treatment.
  • You’re undertaking a trip for childbirth.
  • You’re travelling to a destination the Australian government has listed as ‘do not travel’ or ‘reconsider your need to travel’ on

If you need hospital care while overseas and cover is excluded under your travel insurer’s ‘general exclusions’, you’ll be responsible for the medical and hospital costs in an emergency as well as for additional travel expenses if you need to change your travel plans.

Before buying travel insurance, make sure to look at all the exclusions in the company’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to verify that you’ll be covered.

What Activities Can I Do?

If your idea of a great holiday includes zip-lining, skiing, or survivalist camping in the wild, you might want to rethink your plans while you are pregnant. Dialling down the thrill level of your holiday lowers your risk of experiencing an emergency situation.

If you’re a runner, cyclist, or tennis player you may be able to do these activities while you’re pregnant and on holiday. However, you should consult your doctor to confirm this is safe. There are other activities that are best to avoid due to the risk of trauma to your abdomen, falling over or otherwise harming your baby.

Examples include:

  • Amusement park rides
  • Scuba diving (the bubbles that form in your bloodstream when you move from the high pressure of deeper water to the surface can pose dangers for you and the baby)
  • Contact sports
  • Downhill skiing
  • Gymnastics
  • Horseback riding
  • Snowboarding
  • Surfing
  • Water-skiing

You should also avoid hot tubs, spas and saunas because sitting in overheated water can potentially harm your baby.

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What Do I Talk To My Doctor About Before Travelling?

When planning a trip at any point during your pregnancy it’s important speak to your doctor and ask questions including:

  • What destinations should I avoid?
  • What activities should I avoid?
  • What types of accommodation should I consider?
  • What’s the best way to travel at different points in the pregnancy?
  • What’s the best type of climate for me at different times during my pregnancy?
  • Are there foods or beverages I should avoid?
  • What vaccinations should I get?
  • What medications are safe to take for common pregnancy ailments such as heartburn, constipation, thrush, food poisoning, or diarrhoea?
  • What are complications of pregnancy and what symptoms do I need to watch out for?
  • Am I showing any signs of a medical complication?
  • What are the signs I might be miscarrying and what should I do if I think this is happening?

Always get your doctor or midwife’s okay before you take a trip. Depending on the point in your pregnancy, they may take an ultrasound to confirm you’re not showing any signs of a complication such as placenta previa.

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What are the signs of trouble to look out for?

When you’re doing any type of activity on holiday while pregnant make sure to watch for symptoms which could indicate a problem.

Signs something may be wrong when pregnant:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Preterm labour
  • Decreased foetal movement
  • Fluid leaking from the vagina
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Calf pain or swelling

If you develop any of these symptoms stop your activity immediately and seek medical attention.

Note that the list above are examples only and isn’t meant to be a complete list of the symptoms you may experience.

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Eating During Pregnancy

There are plenty of foods that are safe to eat while pregnant. Seek the advice of your doctor or midwife if you have particular concerns.

  • Nuts, dried fruits, whole grain crackers or granola bars as snacks while in transit
  • Juice and other drinks that have been safely prepared and stored
  • Hard cheeses
  • Well-cooked meat
  • Pasta
  • Fruits you can peel yourself
  • Vegetables
  • Cereals

It’s recommended that you avoid some types of food while you’re pregnant, overseas or at home. These include:

  • Soft cheeses
  • Pates
  • Undercooked meat
  • Seafood
  • Leafy greens or fruits that may have been washed in contaminated water
  • Rich or greasy foods
  • Food that may be contaminated, including street food

Avoiding these foods while overseas will lessen the likelihood of you becoming sick while travelling or of you accidentally harming your unborn baby. Ask your doctor or midwife for further advice.

Remember to respond to food cravings and aversions within reason. Avoid going crazy with cravings that are devoid of nutrition such as junk food and make sure your aversions don’t limit your intake of nutritious foods. If this does appear to be a problem, talk to your doctor about substitutes for healthy foods you can’t eat now.

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What should I pack?

After you’ve decided on the destination for your trip, you’ll need to decide what to pack!

Opt for a suitcase or luggage that you can easily wheel to the gate to minimise unnecessary lifting or straining. While the specifics of your clothing will be influenced by where you’re going, your clothing priority should always be comfortable.

Make sure to pack:

  • Flat, comfortable shoes.
  • Breathable clothing with a relaxed fit that won’t bind you, even if you’re not wearing maternity clothes yet.
  • Underwear that fits your growing body.
  • Long, loose tops.
  • Compression socks that can help relieve any swelling in your legs and prevent blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
  • A bump band that can help you expand the waist of jeans or other pants
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What important documents do I need to remember to take?

It’s a good idea to take a folder with all your documentation.

  • Medical contact information.
  • A letter from your doctor saying you’re fit to travel, as your airline or cruise line might require it.
  • A list of any medications or prescriptions.
  • Your travel insurance certificate and emergency assistance contact information.

Even if you already have what you need in your phone, having a hard copy makes this information readily available to others travelling with you or if your phone is lost or runs out of battery.

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What medications should I pack?

Prescription medications:

Double check you have enough for your entire trip plus a few extra in case you’re delayed arriving home or can’t make it to your doctor when you get back. Also make sure you carry the prescription for all of them.

Non-prescription medication:

Any other creams or medications you’re using or taking such as tablets for heartburn or reflux.

Foods:

Some foods can help medical conditions. Dry crackers are a great snack to keep on hand throughout pregnancy and can serve as an aid to nausea. Other anti-nausea aids include peppermint tea, ginger, lollies or a small stash of almonds.

Given the airline restrictions about carrying quantities of liquids, consider medications in tablet form where possible. For example, chewy tablets instead of liquid heart burn medications.

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Transport Options For A Babymoon

There are a variety of different transport options you may use when you travel on your babymoon including:

  • Planes
  • Ocean cruises
  • River cruises
  • Ferries
  • Coaches
  • Trains
  • Your own vehicle, rental vehicle or taxis
  • Mopeds or motorbikes

Whichever option you choose, remember it’s important to stretch your legs as often as possible.

Don’t sit for too long in a confined space, whether you’re in close quarters in a plane or travelling by car. Go for a walk and stretch your legs when possible. If you can’t walk around, flex and rotate your ankles.

Cruising While Pregnant

Taking a cruise while pregnant sounds like the ultimate relaxing experience at a time when you’re probably feeling fatigued. You can explore exotic locations while enjoying the on-board food, entertainment and ocean views. However, as with any form of travel, a cruise is not completely without its own set of risks.

There are a number of potential risks that come with cruising while pregnant. These include:

Diseases:

Sickness can spread easily in the confined quarters of a cruise ship. You can minimise risks by carefully maintaining your own hygiene, but there’s always the risk of becoming sick from someone else, like picking up a gastric virus from the buffet.

Injuries:

Slips and falls are common injuries on a cruise, especially around pool areas and lower decks. Be aware that the salt and sea spray can make stairs extra slippery so always use handrails and watch your step.

Limited medical assistance:

Your cruise ship might not have the provisions to properly deal with medical emergencies related to pregnancy. You can enquire before you travel about what medical services can be provided on board the ship.

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How to stay comfortable and healthy on a cruise while pregnant

Choose the right cabin:

If you stay in a cabin at the centre of the ship you’re less likely to feel seasick. If you’re further away from the kitchens and bars, you’re also more likely to have a better night’s sleep!

Booking a room with a window or balcony will also help you feel less confined and allow fresh air and natural light into your room to combat claustrophobia.

Get a comfortable bed:

Ensure you have a good night’s sleep by asking for extra pillows or bring your own.

Think carefully about shore excursions:

Some shore excursions may not be suitable for you, such as scuba diving or hiking.

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How do I deal with seasickness?

To help prevent seasickness or lessen the severity of the symptoms, you can:

  • Request a lower level cabin near the centre of the ship where there’s less movement.
  • Come prepared with anti-nausea aids. The ship might have some kind of saltine or soda crackers which can help, but you should also consider taking medications or natural remedies that your doctor has approved.
  • Get accustomed to the boat’s motion by gazing at the sea. Sit down facing the direction you’re travelling.
  • When you first board, opt for more leisurely and relaxing activities rather than the organised activities that may make you feel seasick.
  • Mind what you eat at the buffet. If you eat too much, or eat rich foods, you may regret it later. Opt for small frequent visits to the buffet rather than overeating in one sitting.
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Flying While Pregnant

Flying can cut down the time it takes to reach almost any destination compared to travelling by car, bus, or cruise ship, but it does pose some risks.

While some women can fly until nearly the end of the pregnancy, your doctor will advise you on whether it’s safe for you to fly given your particular circumstances. If you have conditions such as a complicated pregnancy with placenta previa or bleeding, history of premature labor, or signs of early labor, you may be advised to avoid flying.

Generally, your doctor will discourage flying after 36 weeks of pregnancy or after 32 weeks for twins. After this time, the likelihood of a premature delivery increases. When travelling during your third trimester of pregnancy, staying closer to home may be the safest option.

Make sure you plan your trip so that it fits within the airline or cruise company’s allowances. Remember, these restrictions will apply to the date you’re returning home, so always keep in mind the number of weeks pregnant you’ll be at the end of your trip and plan accordingly.

The risks of flying while pregnant include:

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Blood Clots

Long-distance travel can increase the risk of blood clots, especially if the flight is over five hours (this is relevant for all travellers, not just pregnant women). Wearing compression socks or support stockings, drinking plenty of water, and moving around every 30 minutes can lessen this risk.

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High Altitude

High-altitude flights can cause complications during pregnancy as both you and your baby have access to less oxygen, which can tire you out and affect the growth and development of your baby. You may find yourself feeling lightheaded, dizzy, headachy, or even huffing and puffing. If you already have conditions such as preeclampsia, hypertension, or anything else that makes your pregnancy risky, travelling at high altitudes may complicate your condition.

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Radiation Limits

Some travellers may be concerned about the radiation from security scanners, especially frequent flyers and those who work on planes as pilots and flight attendants. The radiation you may be exposed to on a single flight is minimal, but if you are concerned, ask for a pat down from security rather than walking through security machines.

Are there airline restrictions that apply to pregnant travellers?

Your doctor is not the only one who might limit your ability to fly at certain times in your pregnancy, as airlines have different rules too. After 28 weeks, most airlines require a letter from your doctor saying that you’re fit to fly. After 36 weeks, airlines usually won’t let you fly. Make sure to check the guidelines of your airline.

  • Some airlines will permit flying through to the end of your pregnancy for urgent medical or compassionate reasons, but only with the approval of their own medical advisors, as well as your doctor.
  • Regulations can vary based on the length of the flight. Some airlines will let you fly until the end of the 40th week of pregnancy with a single birth, or 36th week for multiples on flights of less than four hours. For flights of five hours, they may only allow travel up until the end of the 36th week for single babies or the 32th week with multiples.
  • If you have recently had a miscarriage, your airline may request a letter from your doctor that states it’s safe for you to fly.
  • If you’re flying internationally, you may need to contact the embassy or consulate in some countries due to their regulations for pregnant non-national women. For example, you may be refused entry into the United States of America if a Customs and Border Protection officer determines you’re likely to become a ward of the state (because you don’t have medical coverage).
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Health and comfort tips for the flight

  • If you choose to fly during pregnancy, there are several things you can do to make yourself more comfortable during the flight and to reduce health risks.
  • Request an aisle seat so you can easily access the restroom and be able to get up and walk during the flight without bothering other passengers.
  • Make it known to reservation staff when you check in that you’re pregnant and you’d like a seat with a little extra space and leg room if possible. It can’t hurt to ask and you never know, you may end up with a free upgrade. 
  • Always wear your seatbelt and properly fasten it across the thighs and below your growing abdomen. Your flight attendant can provide you with a seatbelt extender if the standard one doesn’t fit correctly.
  • Either walk up and down the aisle to promote circulation or at least flex and extend your ankles if you have to sit through most of the flight.
  • Dress comfortably in non-restrictive clothing, and consider wearing compression stockings to help prevent blood clots.
  • Drink plenty of fluid to offset low humidity in the cabin.
  • Avoid gassy foods and drinks such as broccoli and carbonated beverages, as trapped gas can cause discomfort at higher altitudes.
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Travelling By Car While Pregnant

Throughout your pregnancy, travelling by car can prove simpler to organise. You can make yourself comfortable, get out of the car when you want, change your plans up until the last minute and plan your route so that you’re always near good medical facilities in case of an emergency. You can even travel in your third trimester, although common sense dictates that you not travel more than a couple hours from home as your delivery day gets closer.

  • Sit in the front passenger seat with the windows slightly open, especially in your first trimester when you’re prone to morning sickness. Listen to music or an audio book to take your mind off an unsettled stomach.
  • Bring your anti-nausea aids and perhaps even a cloth and icepack to put on your forehead to keep you cool.
  • Wear comfortable clothing made of natural fabrics that do not restrict you or make you uncomfortably warm. Complete your outfit with comfortable shoes and consider support stockings.
  • Plan to take frequent breaks. Aside from pit-stops to go to the bathroom, stop often to stretch out your muscles to help your circulation and prevent blood clots.
  • Always wear your seatbelt fastened correctly. This can be a challenge, especially in the third trimester, but wearing your seatbelt with the shoulder belt in place and across your chest with the lap belt fastened as low as possible around your hips is the safest way to travel, and it also the law in all Australian states and territories.
  • Use a pillow for back support.
  • Don’t fear your airbag, it’ll help to protect you in the event of a collision.

How Do I Manage Pregnancy Symptoms?

As your pregnancy progresses, you may become more uncomfortable as your body gets bigger to make room for your baby. Fortunately, you can take some steps to lessen the effects of many sources of discomfort:

Morning sickness:

You can fight this nauseous feeling that’s most often experienced during the first trimester with saltine or soda crackers, peppermint tea, ginger, lollies, an antacid product such as Rennie or Gaviscon or a small stash of almonds. These remedies can help to calm acid reflux as well.

Swollen ankles:

Your growing abdomen puts pressure on your legs, ankles, and feet. Avoid staying on your feet for long periods of time, and when you’re sleeping, lie on your left side to take pressure off the interior vena cava (largest vein in the human body). However, this doesn’t mean you can avoid exercise, as exercising can prevent leg cramps. You may find that swimming and walking provides temporary relief from swelling. The good news is you have a legitimate reason to indulge in extra foot massages!

Leg cramps:

Try to exercise your legs while travelling, whether this means getting up and walking up and down the aisles in a plane or making frequent stops during car trips. To help prevent blood clots, consider wearing support stockings or compression socks.

Heartburn:

Especially after 30 weeks, you may experience a rush of digestive acids splashing into your oesophagus and causing irritation and burning. To minimize heartburn, avoid spicy foods, red meat, chocolate, greasy foods and large quantities of citrus. Also follow some behavioural tips like eating smaller regular meals, drinking liquids before and after (but not during) your meal, wearing comfortable loose clothing and sitting up straight. Avoid lying down for an hour after you eat, and sleep with your head and shoulders propped up on pillows to help keep the acid low.

Frequent urination:

You’ll feel the need to go to the bathroom frequently during your pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimester when hormones send more blood to your pelvic area and the baby puts pressure on your bladder. Staying hydrated and drinking fluids is important during pregnancy but to prevent frequent urination at night, reduce the amount of fluid you drink late in the day. Also, reduce or skip diuretics like coffee, tea and soft drinks. Otherwise, go with the flow and plan ahead for frequent bathroom stops wherever you are.

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Helpful Resources

Choosing a Safe Travel Destination

Wondering whether it’s safe to travel to certain areas of the world?

Visit Smartraveller and Health.gov.au. Also view health advisories from the Australian government.

Thinking of travelling while pregnant to a developing country? This guide from InterHealth Worldwide offers some useful tips.

Videos to watch:

TRAVELING WHILE PREGNANT | Baby Steps: Cullen & Katie: Watch one couple do it!

Travel In Pregnancy: For advice on travelling by car and plane

Information on Vaccinations:
Travel Insurance for Pregnancy:

This handy comparison by Finder will show you what’s available from different companies.

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