Meghan and Prince Harry’s baby announcement raises challenges of travelling while pregnant
The news of Prince Harry and Meghan’s pregnancy has added a completely new dimension to the royal pair’s Australian tour.
Now spectators and royal watchers will be looking for that baby bump; and with a rigorous, 15-day schedule through Australia, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand, there will be plenty of travelling.
Another challenge is the area they are travelling in — the World Health Organisation identified recent cases of the Zika virus in Yonga, and there have also been cases in Fiji in the past.
Zika infection can have serious consequences for pregnant women and their unborn babies, so while in the South Pacific islands Meghan will need to keep exposure to mosquitos to a minimum.
So although most soon-to-be-mums don’t have the same intense itinerary that comes with being a member of the Royal family, they may face a similar question — is it safe for women to travel while pregnant?
Little additional risk for pregnant women to fly
According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, air travel while pregnant is safe.
“Pregnant women can fly safely, observing the same precautions for air travel as the general population,” the college wrote in a newsletter to its members.
“In-craft environmental conditions, such as changes in cabin pressure and low humidity, coupled with the physiologic changes of pregnancy, do result in adaptations, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, and a significant decrease in aerobic capacity.”
Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting their first child next year. (AP: Tim Ireland, file photo)
A real risk for any long-haul passenger is deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
This is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein of the leg, which can cause complications such as pain, inflammation and swelling. The greater danger with these clots is that they can dislodge and travel through the circulatory system, blocking blood supply to the lungs.
The risk of DVT is higher when pregnant and being immobile for long periods is also a risk factor, so it’s worth keeping in mind for any sort of travel, including long car trips.
But the risks with long-haul flights can be easily reduced with loose clothing and exercises to help with circulation.
Victoria Government’s Better Health website suggests if there is no turbulence, then pregnant women should try to walk up and down the aisle every 30 minutes.
And if there is a baby bump, then the seatbelt should be under the bump and across the lap.
According to Brisbane obstetrician Dr Will Milford, while there are some special things you should take into consideration, flying while pregnant carries very little additional risk.
“Flying does not have any effect on the pregnancy,” Dr Milford said when he spoke to the ABC last year.
“You’re not more likely to go into labour or break your waters from flying.
“What airlines are worried about is a woman giving birth on the plane, the risk of which obviously increases as you get close to your due date.”
You should still check your airline’s rules first
Some airlines don’t allow women to fly as they near the due date. And in Australia, major airlines often require pregnant women to get a note from their doctor after 28 weeks.
For both Qantas and Virgin Australia, women without pregnancy complications are allowed to travel on flights of four hours or more up to the end of the 36th week for single pregnancies, and the end of the 32nd week for twins (and triplets, etc).
For flights less than four hours, you can travel up to the end of the 40th week in a single pregnancy and the 36th week for a multiple pregnancy.
However, the rules differ from airline to airline, so pregnant women should always check before booking and/or flying.