By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

The main potential problem with traveling during pregnancy is that it puts distance between you and your prenatal care provider. If you’re close to your due date or if your pregnancy is considered high-risk, you probably shouldn’t travel far from home. Your decision to travel, though, depends on what the risk factors actually are.

If you have diabetes but it’s well controlled, going on a trip is probably okay. But if you’re pregnant with triplets, traveling to Timbuktu probably isn’t a good idea. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated, travel during the first, second, and early third trimesters is usually okay.

Traveling by car poses no special risk, aside from requiring that you sit in one place for a long time. On long trips, stop every couple of hours to get out and walk around a bit. Wear your seat belt and shoulder strap; they keep you safe, and they won’t hurt the baby, even if you’re in an accident.

The amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus serves as a cushion against any constriction from the lap belt. Not wearing restraints clearly poses a greater risk; studies show that the leading cause of fetal death in auto accidents is death of the mother.

Wear your seat belt below your abdomen, not above it, and keep the shoulder strap in its usual position.

Most airlines allow women to fly if they’re less than 36 weeks pregnant, but you may want to carry a note from your practitioner indicating that she sees no medical reason why you shouldn’t fly. Flying is perfectly safe, especially if you take a couple of precautions:

  • Get up from your seat occasionally during longer flights and walk around the plane. Prolonged periods of sitting can cause blood to pool in your legs. Walking around keeps your circulation going.

  • Carry a water bottle with you and drink water frequently. Airplane air is always very dry. Because airplane air is so dry, you can easily become dehydrated during long flights.

    Drinking extra water also ensures that you get up frequently to go to the restroom, which keeps the blood from pooling in your legs.

You don’t need to worry about airport metal detectors — or any other metal detectors — because they don’t use ionizing radiation. (The conveyor belt that carries your luggage after you check it in does use ionizing radiation, however, so don’t climb onto the counter and send yourself through that machine.)

If you’re prone to air sickness and have found Dramamine helpful in the past, using it in normal doses while you’re pregnant is okay.

If you plan to visit tropical countries, where some diseases are particularly prevalent, you may want to be vaccinated before you go. But check with your doctor to see whether any vaccines you’re considering are safe to have during pregnancy.