Clinical Review

Advising on travel during pregnancy

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 28 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2506
  1. Natasha L Hezelgrave, academic clinical fellow, obstetrics and gynaecology1,
  2. Christopher J M Whitty, professor2,
  3. Andrew H Shennan, professor of obstetrics1,
  4. Lucy C Chappell, clinical senior lecturer1
  1. 1Division of Women’s Health, King’s College London School of Medicine, London SE1 7EH, UK
  2. 2International Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: L Chappell lucy.chappell{at}
  • Accepted 10 April 2011

Summary points

  • Travel during pregnancy may carry additional risks

  • The second trimester of pregnancy is considered the safest in which to travel

  • Air travel may carry risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and thromboembolism

  • Adequacy of obstetric and neonatal care facilities at destinations is varied

  • Women should obtain adequate insurance and check with their airline for restrictions on travel

  • Communicable diseases acquired abroad may increase risks of perinatal morbidity

As travel increases,1 the number of pregnant women who travel will probably rise. Women often ask if travel is safe in pregnancy and seek advice from a range of healthcare professionals. Travel related maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality can be completely avoided only by postponing travel until after delivery, but travel may be necessary or desirable during pregnancy.

Most women are “low risk” and can expect no problems with travel during pregnancy. However, there are particular risks to be considered with each stage of pregnancy, especially if the pregnancy is complicated by comorbidity. Medical concerns can be divided into risks of travel itself (in particular air travel), difficulties related to negotiating different healthcare systems and insurance, and specific risks of acquiring infectious diseases in particular countries. Some travel companies place restrictions on travel in pregnancy. Limited robust evidence or disseminated guidelines makes it difficult to provide definitive advice.

When asked to advise a woman regarding travel in pregnancy a careful risk assessment will help to inform the advice given. We outline an approach to considering risks associated with travel during pregnancy and discuss preparation for travel, advice on managing illness while abroad, and relevant post-travel considerations. This article is relevant to all who provide care during pregnancy, particularly general practitioners, who may be the primary source of advice for women with uncomplicated pregnancies who are considering travel.

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