While other expectant mums are content to put their feet up on the couch, Shubigi Sahay gamely traipsed across five countries with her husband during the second trimester of her pregnancy. Her mantra: Travel during pregnancy? Why not?
For three weeks, the adventurous couple travelled by every form of transport – car, ship, rail and air – across much of Scandinavia like Denmark, Sweden and Finland, as well as Estonia.
“The challenge was walking around with all that extra weight. My husband and I love to walk a lot during our overseas trips, but this time round, we had to take it easier and take frequent breaks,” says Shubigi, an artist. She also made sure to get her doctor’s okay beforehand.
The Sahays aren’t the only “babymooners”. More couples are squeezing in a getaway before parenthood duties officially kick in, according to travel operators.
While there are no official statistics, Jetstar’s spokesperson told Young Parents: “Babymooning is fast becoming a recognised travel industry trend in Asia. Many parents-to-be are seizing the opportunity to have a romantic, restful break together before settling down as a family.”
Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Law Wei Seng of Pacific Healthcare Specialist Centre, adds: “Pregnancy vacations help couples reconnect with one another in a fun-filled, peaceful environment, in order to allow rest before having the baby.”
According to Dr Law, the best time for a babymoon is between the 18th and 24th week of pregnancy, for two practical reasons: Your morning sickness would most likely be gone by then, and you can still move around comfortably enough.
(Also read: Your pregnancy to-do list)
Is it safe to fly when pregnant?
In general, travelling by air, even on long-haul flights, is safe for most mums-to-be with uncomplicated pregnancies, says Dr Law.
One of the most common questions he gets from his pregnant patients is whether it is safe to walk through the airport metal detectors.
“I can assure you that it is absolutely safe. These machines are not X-ray ones and will cause absolutely no harm to you or your baby,” says Dr Law.
If you have no pregnancy problems, you are allowed to fly up to the 36th to 38th week of your pregnancy, provided that flying time does not exceed four hours, according to the International Air Transport Association guidelines.
However, most airlines do not accept expectant travellers from Week 36 of their pregnancies. Most airlines, like Silkair and Jetstar, also require mums-to-be travelling from Week 28 of pregnancy to present a medical certificate issued by their gynaecologist before boarding.
If you have any pregnancy complications or are expecting multiple births, you will need to speak to your doctor before travelling by air. In such cases, the airline will accept mums on a case-by-case basis, says Soraya Salim, Silkair’s head of public affairs.
For long-haul flights, Dr Law advises taking a few precautions to avoid dehydration and deep vein thrombosis – conditions that pregnant women face a higher risk of getting.
“The air humidity in the cabin of a passenger aircraft is kept at only 8 per cent – so pregnant women should drink plenty of water, particularly on long flights. Sitting for too long on a flight or in a car or train ride will increase the risk of formation of blood clots in the veins of the legs,” he says.
Try to move around for 15 minutes every hour, or exercise your calf muscles every now and then. Compression stockings help, too.
Soraya says Silkair also tries to accommodate special seat requests from pregnant women to help make the flight a more comfortable one.
She suggests requesting for aisle seats in the front part of the plane. These are nearer the washrooms and you can move around more easily without having to squeeze past other passengers.
(Also read: Flying with a baby: Tips and tricks)
Where to travel
Most travel operators suggest vacationing at nearby destinations such as Bali and Phuket, where mums-to-be can “rest and relax” in private villas or unwind with luxurious spa treatments.
A romantic getaway to Australian cities like Melbourne, where they can savour top-notch culinary offerings and shop for chic maternity and baby wear, is another option for babymooners, says Jetstar’s spokesperson.
Alternatively, a short cruise also makes for a romantic getaway for babymooners who prefer not to travel by air, says Chin Ying Duan, corporate communications manager of Royal Caribbean Cruises (Asia). Compared to air travel, Dr Law says a cruise allows pregnant women to move about more easily.
As a rule of thumb, when you have a baby bump, you should avoid strenuous activities like mountain climbing or scuba diving. Dr Law warns that some studies report a higher incidence of birth defects and preterm birth among women who dive during pregnancy.
Snorkelling is safe. However, if you are suffering from morning sickness, this activity may aggravate nausea and vomiting, says Dr Law.
Steer clear of hot springs, steam baths and saunas, too. “Spending a long time in hot temperature may not be good for your unborn baby,” adds Dr Law.
Despite having to “lug around extra weight” during her vacation, Shubigi says the trip was well worth the effort, as it was her last romantic getaway with her husband for a while. Now that their baby has arrived, their free-and-easy, gallivanting days are over – for the time being.
Having been there and done that, Shubigi has some advice for mums-to-be who are considering a vacation.
“Learn to chill and not be overly stressed by unexpected situations that occur during the holiday. And while on the road, pregnant travellers definitely need to always ensure they have access to toilets,” she says with a laugh.
(Also read: What to know before buying travel insurance)