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If pregnant travelers do their research, there's no need to eclipse a babymoon

With research, risks of pregnant travel are minimal

Of the many trends invented by the travel industry to pry dollars from our wallets — hello, staycation! — one of the most popular in recent years has been the "babymoon."

Unlike a honeymoon, which, of course, happens just after the wedding, a babymoon occurs shortly before the big event. The theory is that a little person is about to thwart such previously known luxuries as sleep and travel, so why not treat that mama-to-be to a little getaway while a little getaway can still be had?

Voila — babymoon!

I thought little of the concept until an obstetrician recently told me that he dissuades travel during pregnancy, especially to less-developed countries. (Though an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or the Dominican Republic doesn't quite count as the Third World, they still can be home to less developed health care.)

That doctor admitted that research does not support his opinion but said most forms of travel just aren't worth the risk associated with being away from your doctor or being exposed to unfamiliar germs. He said something about the fetus being too precious to expose to such risk.

It got me wondering: Does a babymoon really present risk? The answer is mostly no — but be smart about it, and do your research.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, travel does not present much risk to a typical pregnancy. But ACOG does offer some recommendations, such as traveling during the second trimester ("Most common pregnancy emergencies usually happen in the first and third trimesters," its website says) and to tread carefully when heading to less developed countries ("The safest water to drink is tap water that has been boiled for one minute").

Ultimately, said Yalda Afshar of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, the risk facing a woman in the midst of a healthy pregnancy isn't much different than the risk for someone who isn't pregnant.

"It is not a reason not to travel by any means," Afshar said.

She even argued that traveling during the first or third trimester (perhaps avoiding the final weeks of pregnancy) is fine. Most miscarriages happen during the first trimester; any that happen during travel most likely are coincidences, she said, and not caused by travel.

There are risks, however. Pregnancy increases a woman's risk of thrombosis — blood clots, which can travel to the heart or lungs. Long flights inherently mean lots of sitting, which makes blood clots one of the bigger dangers of pregnant travel. Her recommendation, therefore, is not to sit too long: Get an aisle seat and get up often to stretch the legs. Staying hydrated — always important on a long flight — also takes on extra importance.

"Dehydration can cause contractions, nausea and vomiting," Afshar said.

The weightiest issue when deciding where to travel during pregnancy is the destination. More developed places naturally will have more developed health care. Places with higher incidences of infectious disease that can harm a fetus — malaria, for example — might be worth skipping. Afshar suggests checking the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website (cdc.gov/travel) to learn of potential hazards before booking travel. But much of the world is safe for pregnant women to travel, she said.

"Access to good medical care can make things easier, and you might be more comfortable," she said. "But for someone who is having a healthy pregnancy and is comfortable with rugged travel as their baseline, that's probably fine."

As with all travel, preparation is key. Does the all-inclusive resort have a house doctor? Where is the closest hospital? She encourages carrying a copy of prenatal records, such as due date and current medication. And yes, some places inherently present a little more risk than others — just as when someone isn't pregnant.

"If someone tells me they're going to Hawaii for a week versus Bangladesh, I will counsel them very differently," Afshar said. "In the end, it's a very personal decision and something to discuss between mother and obstetrician. If a woman is fully aware, you can't stop someone from traveling. They just need to make an educated choice."

jbnoel@tribune.com

Twitter @joshbnoel

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