At time of writing, David and I are currently 27 weeks pregnant, time is absolutely galloping! So far this trimester baby boy has flown to France for a lovely long weekend, taken long road trips to Scotland and Wales, enjoyed some overnight camping in Osprey (our Vivaro camper conversion) and we've enjoying catching up on hiking and kayaking - I definitely have more energy than in my 1st trimester! While you'll feel much more up for travelling over the next 3 months, the 2nd trimester can also bring a few more challenges than the 1st trimester (more on that later) but we promise it can be done safely and enjoyably with a few simple tweaks and precautions.
In this blog, we'll focus on travelling in the second trimester, or from week 14 up until week 27 of your pregnancy.
Looking for 1st trimester travel tips? Wondering if you can fly in early pregnancy? We've got you covered in our previous blog: Travelling in early pregnancy: top tips for a first trimester holiday from a pregnant travel blogger
NB - we are not medically trained and every pregnancy is different, so the tips in this blog comes entirely from my own experiences of travelling while pregnant. If you have any specific concerns regarding your own pregnancy, complications and travel, please discuss these with and seek advice from your midwife, OBGYN or healthcare provider for specific medical answers before your trip, especially if you're traveling to a place with different healthcare facilities to those at home or traveling long distances.
Your second trimester is often called the Golden Trimester and is the perfect time to book a holiday before baby arrives. By now any lingering nausea has finally gone, maybe you've discovered that "pregnancy glow" that people have been promising, and you might find yourself feeling relatively normal, minus the bump of course! I certainly feel back to my usual self energy wise and your second trimester is generally considered to be the safest part of your pregnancy for travel.
Let's take a look at a few common questions about travelling in your second trimester:
Can I fly in my second trimester? Can I fly at 6 months pregnant?
Do I need any additional paperwork?
The good news is that most pregnant women can fly in their second trimester and you won't need any paperwork! Double check with who you're flying with, but the general rule seems to be that from 28 weeks pregnant or more (your third trimester), your airline will require a certificate or letter from your midwife confirming that the pregnancy is progressing normally, that there are no complications and the expected date of delivery. This means a trip booked around weeks 20 - 26, when you're about 4.5 - 6 months pregnant, is the perfect time to enjoy a holiday without having to sort additional paperwork.
That being said, there are a couple of things that could potentially be picked up in your 20 week scan, also known as the anatomy scan or the anomaly scan, that could mean you are advised not to fly by your midwife, and if you're coming back after week 28 then this means you won't be able to get your fit to fly letter and could be denied boarding:
Placenta praevia - during your 20 week scan the sonographer will check the position of the placenta in your uterus. If it is low lying and close to or covering the cervix then this classes your pregnancy as high risk as it can cause bleeding and potentially impact how your baby comes into the world once you're in labour as their exit will be blocked or obstructed.
In many cases as the baby grows throughout your second trimester the placenta moves upwards of its own accord and won't be low lying by the time baby is born. This is checked at around 30 - 32 weeks with another scan, but this will be too late for your second trimester trip! You will also have to make your travel insurance aware of your diagnosis which could affect whether or not they will be willing to cover you.
Gestational Diabetes - If you have been deemed at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes you will need to take an oral glucose tolerance test at around 24 -28 weeks to see if you have the condition. Gestational diabetes occurs when your body can't produce enough insulin to meet the extra needs in pregnancy - if detected early it can be easily treated and in most cases disappears after birth, but a positive diagnosis does make you more at risk of larger babies, premature birth and pre eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy).
Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes puts your pregnancy into the high risk category and so you will be advised not to fly. It is also highly unlikely that you will be able to get a doctor to sign a fit to fly letter after 28 weeks, and you might struggle to get travel insurance.
Once you're airborne, be sure to take regular walks up and down the plane, drink plenty of (uncaffeinated) fluids, rotate your ankles and flex and point your feet while sitting to help avoid DVT, and remember to buckle your seatbelt low under your bump, like you would in a car.
Can I travel by ferry or train while pregnant? Can I take a cruise in my second trimester?
If you've been told you shouldn't fly because of any of the previously mentioned complications but you still want to travel, you still have some transport options for getting away, but if you have been warned that your pregnancy is high risk, you might want to consider whether it would be better to postpone your trip until after baby arrives, for both your safety.
(again we are not medically trained and every pregnancy is different, so the tips in this blog comes entirely from my own experiences of travelling while pregnant. If you have any specific concerns regarding your own pregnancy, complications and travel, please discuss these with and seek advice from your midwife, OBGYN or healthcare provider for specific medical answers before your trip, especially if you're traveling to a place with different healthcare facilities to those at home or traveling long distances.)
Ferry companies like Brittany Ferries will allow you to sail up until 32 weeks but cruise ships are stricter, with a cut off at the end of your 23rd week, about two thirds of the way through your second trimester! Some cruise lines will also require a fit to cruise letter, so double heck this when booking.
The Eurostar has no limits on pregnant passengers at all, but we'd recommend coming back by week 37, just in case baby decides to turn up early!
Obviously any pre existing complications should be declared to your holiday insurance when you buy it in order for your policy to be valid.
Is it safe to travel in the second trimester?
With a few simple tweaks, there is no reason why you can't enjoy a safe holiday in your second trimester. Pampering yourself on a relaxing cruise, enjoying a romantic city break or booking a beach babymoon is a wonderful idea for the middle of your pregnancy!
You'll want to take some precautions on long flights like wearing compression socks, staying hydrated and keeping moving as you're at a much higher risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clots) than before falling pregnant, but rest assured that the radiation we all experience any time we fly is sufficiently low that it won't affect baby and the airport body scanners are fine for pregnancy.
As with travel in your first trimester, while travelling in your second trimester you should avoid overheating (and watch the sun burn!), keep hydrated, and be even more scrupulous when it comes to hand hygiene and food poisoning. Now you have a bigger bump you'll want to skip high impact/dangerous activities that might risk you falling or over exerting yourself like skiing, jet-skis, bungee jumping and climbing, but common holiday activities like flying, sailing, snorkelling (but not scuba) and walking don't pose a threat to your baby in a low risk pregnancy with no complications.
Do I need to declare my pregnancy on my travel insurance?
Providing there are no complications, price comparison websites such as Compare the Market and Go Compare state that you don't need to declare a low risk pregnancy as a pre-existing condition on your travel insurance. We have a trip to Australia booked from weeks 28 - 31, and while I will need a Fit to Fly letter from my doctor to show the airline, I don't need a special insurance policy or to declare my pregnancy. We've booked our travel insurance with Admiral which includes £20 million in medical coverage, and the agent has assured me that I will be covered for absolutely everything provided I come home by 32 weeks.
Obviously always read the small print before purchasing a policy (or phone up to check if you're still unsure) and if you're a UK/EU citizen travelling in Europe we'd also recommend getting a Global Health Insurance Card (the new post Brexit EHIC) as well. It's free and entitles you to treatment in state hospitals at the same price as the residents of the country you're visiting, including emergency treatment, visits to A&E and routine maternity care, unless you're going abroad to give birth. We've also shown ours at doctors surgeries abroad (hello tonsillitis in Paris and Bruges...) and the card helps to cover the smaller fees that your travel insurance excess wouldn't, like prescriptions and GP appointments. Obviously this doesn't replace your travel insurance, which is essential!
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of travelling in your second trimester:
Let's take a quick look at some of the benefits of travelling in your second trimester, as well as some of the mid pregnancy symptoms that might negatively affect your holiday. I'll be honest, I much preferred travelling in the second trimester compared to my 13 weeks hiking trip to Madeira - maybe it was a tad ambitious...)!
Energy levels! I have loved my 2nd trimester, and give or take the odd growth spurt week where I've felt tired, I no longer need afternoon naps or to turn in early, and while I'm definitely aware of my growing tummy, otherwise I feel pretty much back to normal again energy wise.
Bye bye morning sickness! As well as having more energy, by now that horrid early pregnancy nausea should have gone (for me it was by around week 14), which means you'll feel way more up for exploring, sightseeing and even sitting on a plane will be feel less claustrophobic. Hopefully you'll enjoy eating more by now as well without feeling green and bloated!
No paperwork/restrictions. Like we said earlier, travelling earlier in your pregnancy means that unless you have any pre existing concerns with your pregnancy, you won't need to worry about cut off dates for travelling or needing that midwife certificate for trips after 28 weeks .
Shopping time! By now even the hair band trick on your jeans might be straining slightly, so treat yourself and your bump to some beautiful holiday maternity outfits. Maybe you don't like shopping but this was definitely a positive for me. You don't need to break the bank on clothes you'll only wear for a few months - I got lots of my maternity wear second hand on sites like Vinted, or buy wrap dresses that you can make smaller again post birth. If you're somewhere warm, keep things loose and flowy to stay cool, and don't forget a big sunhat!
Needing the loo more often. I did get a brief respite from this for the first few weeks of my 2nd trimester, but by about week 24 frequent weeing reappeared as baby leant on and kicked my bladder. If you're on a road trip, plan your route with regular rest stops and if you're flying, try to get an aisle seat for easier access to the restroom and so you can easily walk up and down to stretch your legs if you want to.
DVT. Speaking of walking up and down the plane, you have an increased risk of developing DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clots) on long flights while pregnant. My midwife advised that for anything longer than 4 hours of flying you should really be wearing compression socks, but double check this with your own healthcare provider as you might have pre-existing conditions that might warrant wearing flight socks even on shorter flights. Don't despair at the thought of shelling out for granny style unattractive beige stockings though, check out the packing list later in this blog for some seriously snazzy options! Other tips for avoiding DVT when flying is to keep moving (book an aisle seat so you can walk around regularly) and staying hydrated.
No alcohol. Despite well meaning friends and relatives insisting that the occasional drink during pregnancy is ok, here in the UK, current NHS advice is that if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant you should not drink any alcohol at all. I have given up drinking completely until baby arrives in November and while I do really enjoy fresh juices and mocktails, I desperately miss sunny poolside cocktails or glass of wine with dinner. I seem to be travelling to all the places famous for wine this year... France, Madeira, Australia le sigh...
Constipation. Like in the first trimester, in weeks 14-27 good old progesterone and relaxin can still make your digestive system sluggish, leading to bloating and everyone's favourite travel affliction, constipation. To help yourself out, drink lots of water, try to include wholegrains and veggies in your diet, avoid spicy foods and onions which tend to bloat you and stick to smaller, simpler portions.
Rib pain. This one has really stated hitting in the second trimester. From about week 22 or so once my bump really popped I started getting quite intense growing pains, like a burny stitch, running along the top of my bump/under my boobs when sitting for a long period. Obviously this isn't ideal on road trips/flights, so I made sure to plan plenty of stops on the road to get up and stretch, and when flying try to sit as straight as possible in my seat and take time to go for some walks up and down the aisle to stop my abs scrunching as much.
Be aware of the Zika virus.
Zika virus is spread by infected mosquitos and while symptoms are typically mild in adults, it can be very dangerous for unborn babies, especially in early pregnancy. Zika can be passed from mother to foetus and can cause some very serious birth defects like microencephaly. While mosquitos in the UK don't carry the Zika virus, it can be found in parts of:
South and Central America
the Pacific islands
including popular holiday destinations like Aruba, the Bahamas, Fiji, Indonesia, the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam. As there is no vaccine or antiviral available to prevent catching the Zika virus, current medical recommendations are to postpone travelling to any countries or regions where Zika is known to be.
What to pack for a second trimester trip:
Any antenatal notes you might have, the contact details for your doctor/pregnancy triage department at home and your travel insurance.
Hospital details for the place you're visiting - it doesn't hurt to know where the nearest facilities are to where you're staying, just in case.
Loose fitting clothes or comfy layers with stretch - floaty, flowing clothes will help with heat in warmer climates and keep you comfortable if you're bloated after eating. If you're travelling to a colder climate, wearing comfy stretchy layers will keep you cosy without feeling overwhelmed and sick.
Sturdy, comfortable footwear - as your bump grows, your centre of gravity can change which can make you feel off balance. Leave the heels at home and pack some comfy trainers or decent walking shoes/boots. We swear by Uin Footwear for their travel shoes, like walking on a cloud! Plus they're wide fitting, so any hot swollen feet will still be comfy after a day of sightseeing.
DVT socks for long haul flights - as we said earlier, pregnancy is a thrombotic condition and wearing compression stockings (aka flight socks) on your flight. This doesn't mean you need to head to Boots for some beige monstrosities though, check out Not Your Grandma's for some amazing snazzy options! I will be rocking the Space themed ones on my flight to Australia.
Big sun hat - as we already said, avoiding sunburn and overheating in pregnancy is really important. Choose a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face, neck and shoulders - I wear this one from Mountain Warehouse which has added protective 50+ UPF to block radiation from the sun. You could also take a handbag sized UPF umbrella like this colourful one sold by Stick and Cane Shop to give yourself even more shade.
Sun cream - pregnant skin burns more easily so pack plenty of factor 50!
Your pregnancy supplements.
Rennies/Gaviscon for heartburn
Sea bands for nausea - These stretchy acupressure wristbands are miraculous. I packed mine for a whale watching cruise and will be taking them to Australia for boat trips!
Hand sanitiser to lessen the chance of any tummy bugs.
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