packed_suitcaseOver three years of traveling for 3+ days weekly for my job I had begun to feel like a bona fide expert. But traveling while pregnant required some new skills.

Before my pregnancy, I could go through security blindfolded, with TSA agents commenting that I must “do this a lot” as I turned my gear into three bins and unshod myself in seconds.

Even when my husband and I found out I was pregnant I felt confident that I would manage if not maintain my travel schedule. I prepared for the worst (snack bags of crackers, mints, plastic bags, those great Wisp by Colgate travel toothbrushes) and had an easy first trimester with minimal morning sickness. My second trimester rolled on and I felt great. Accounts asked me how I was managing and my response was, “Amazingly it’s been surprisingly easy.”

However, last week in Cleveland I had a new challenge thrown at me as I entered my third trimester of pregnancy. Partway between Erie and Cleveland I realized that I was feeling funny and upon further examination was, without getting too graphic, having some unexpected discharge. This was my first experience with a “complication” on the road that didn’t involve a missed flight or closed rental car counter. After an overnight at Fairview Hospital and hours of observation, here are the top nine things to do when traveling in the last trimester- learned the hard way!

1) Create a list that includes your insurance information, your ob’s information, and any important need-to-know’s about your pregnancy. If possible it is helpful to bring medical records. This will come in handy when you are faced with doctors and nurses who have the best intentions but are not familiar with your case. It is also helpful to put the father’s name & contact info on this list as well as anyone else you wish to be notified in case you are not in “phoning” condition when you arrive.

2) Get a doctor’s note with your due date on it. Although this is not related to my recent hospital stay it has come in very handy. The larger you appear the more likely an airline will ask you to prove you are still ok to travel.

3) Download Kayak onto your mobile. Kayak.com is a great website that allows you to plug in info and look up flights, cars, and hotels. It compares multiple brands and lists them in increasing price order. You can also use many parameters to filter out flights with stops and select certain star ratings for hotels. This tool is priceless if you are laying in a hospital bed checking options for your husband to come and meet you if necessary. As a heads up this site does not include results from Southwest.

4) Plan ahead. Know where the hospitals are when you are on the road. In addition, knowing whether they offer labor & delivery is even more important. In Cleveland, I went to one walk-in clinic only to be informed that that hospital didn’t do obstetrics. Upon the advice of my OB I then went to an emergency room and ended up having to be transferred to another hospital because that ER didn’t offer obstetrics either. A little research ahead of time will save you hassle in the moment. 

5) Research area airports. If you google an airport name their website should be one of the first results. On their website you can click on airlines and see what direct flights are offered. I know that for me this solidified my decision to continue on to Cleveland rather than going back to Erie as Cleveland was a direct destination from my home airport. The last thing you need is a distraught and frazzled father-to-be stuck in a connecting airport while you are in another city facing premature labor.

6) Pack an overnight hospital essential bag in your luggage when you travel. Be aware that a hospital is going to be more thorough and cautious with someone they know if from out of town and is by themselves. I went to the ER thinking I would be checked out and ok’d to go if my cervix was still closed. I ended up on an overnight stay with just my purse as my suitcase was in the trunk of my rental car in the first hospital’s garage. Items in your overnight bag should include a change of undergarments, toiletries, phone chargers, a copy of your birth plan and reading material. These items should be in your suitcase but in a seperate bag so that they can be quickly grabbed. Don’t overdo it- you don’t want to have to keep track of too much if they are shuffling you around.

7) Plan manageable trips and consider using Southwest Air Lines. As you get closer to your due date consider booking trips on airlines that offer fares with no cancellation fees. For instance, Southwest allows you to cancel for any reason and maintain the value of your ticket for one year towards future travel. All you have to do is save the confirmation number as this is what the funds are stored under.

8) Call your OB if you feel that anything is wrong. Your obstetrician is there to help. If you have any strange symptoms, are concerned about something, or just feel that something may be wrong, call and ask. It is important not to ignore anything, especially while far from home. If you are admitted to the hospital be sure to call your OB since many insurance companies require notification by your referring physician for ER & hospital visits in order to cover them.

9) Take care of yourself! Stop and rest if you feel tired. Drink plenty of water and eat healthy. The better you care for yourself on the road the easier it will be.

I am happy to report that all ended up checking out for me and I am feeling much better, but you can bet the next time I head out I will be more prepared!