Are you pregnant or planning to be pregnant anytime soon but wanting to travel? This should not be a problem. However, make sure you are well prepared and adjust your plans if necessary.
Especially if you are planning to visit an area where yellow fever or malaria are common. Make sure this journey to the (sub)tropics is absolutely necessary. – During pregnancy women are more susceptible to infection, which is why travelling to areas in which malaria or yellow fever are prevalent is generally not recommended during pregnancy.
Furthermore, during pregnancy the likelihood of needing medical treatment is greater when you are pregnant than it is if you are not pregnant. And given that the quality of medical facilities varies greatly between countries, you might also run the risk of not getting the best possible treatment when you are abroad. With the right information, you can assess if the importance of your journey outweighs the risks.
Infectious diseases and fever
During pregnancy, both you and your unborn child will be more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Every infection that’s accompanied by a high fever can induce labour. Not all antibiotics and medications can be used safely during pregnancy.
Paracetamol is safe to use and is recommended in avoiding high fever. Do not hesitate to see a doctor if you experience a (high) fever.
Most vaccinations can be given safely during pregnancy. Once again, your travel advisor will take your condition into account while giving you personal advice.
Diarrhoea is very unpleasant and can lead to dehydration. During pregnancy, you are also more susceptible to dehydration. Moreover, pregnancy complicates the treatment of prolonged or severe diarrhoea because many medicines cannot be used if you are pregnant. These include loperamide and some kinds of antibiotics. Please take extra precaution when getting advised certain anti diarrhoa medication.
Malaria and dengue
Malaria and dengue can be much more serious for pregnant women and could even result in a miscarriage or premature birth. This is why travelling to a malaria area during pregnancy is not recommended. If, however, you decide to travel to a malaria area, it is crucial that you take the recommended malaria tablets in the prescribed manner. Pregnant women are sometimes apprehensive about the possible side effects of tablets and the potential risks to the unborn child. But bear in mind that malaria is a dangerous disease and that your travel advisor will recommend tablets that can be used safely in your condition.
However, anti-malaria treatments will never offer 100 per cent protection against malaria, so always make sure you get adequate protection against mosquitoes. If, during or after a stay in a malaria area, you develop fever or flu-like symptoms, you should get yourself tested for malaria as soon as possible. Malaria can quickly assume life-threatening forms, particularly in pregnant women.
To avoid getting dengue, it is particularly important to also take mosquito repellent measures during daylight hours. A new vaccine against dengue was released in April 2023. Regrettably, this vaccine is not (yet) suitable for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
DEET and pregnancy
A mosquito repellent with a maximum of 30 per cent DEET can be used safely throughout your entire pregnancy. Please do not use it longer or more often than necessary for an adequate protection.
For optimum comfort and legroom, try to get an aisle seat. To minimise the risk of thrombosis, walk around a little every 30 minutes or so. Drink plenty of water because the air in an aircraft is very dry. Most airlines won’t transport pregnant women after the 36th week because of the risk of the baby being born in the aircraft. Flying is not recommended until at least seven days after childbirth, among other things because of the increased risk of deep-vein thrombosis. Before booking your trip ask about the airline’s policy. If you are severely anaemic, or if you have suffered from thrombosis, discuss your travel plans with your midwife, family doctor or gynaecologist.
Car accidents are very common. If you have suffered an accident, you should consult a doctor afterwards, even if any injuries you might incur seem trivial, or if you don’t notice any complaints straight away. Also, avoid other potentially risky activities, such as water-skiing or scuba diving.
Pregnant women who stay at high altitudes (above 2,500 metres) are more likely to suffer from altitude sickness symptoms. However, medication against altitude sickness may not be used. This makes it particularly important for a pregnant woman not to ascend too quickly, to take four to five days’ rest before exerting themselves and to avoid strenuous exercise.
Consult your travel advisor, doctor or pharmacist about which medication to use safely when you are pregnant. During pregnancy some women experience vaginal infections more often and travelling to warm countries can increase the likelihood of these. Consult with your doctor about anti-fungal medication to take with you as a precaution.
In the Netherlands, approximately 10 per cent of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. This can also happen if you are travelling or shortly after being vaccinated, without it having anything to do with your journey or the vaccination. Moreover, the quality of healthcare in other countries is not always as good as it is in the Netherlands. It’s therefore a good idea to take this into account when choosing your holiday destination, just in case you might need medical care during your stay abroad.