Women enjoy travel opportunities and activities with their babies in fetal position

TAKING THE KIDS

June 12, 1994|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Dr. Eileen Murphy was seven months pregnant, but that didn't stop her from having a fabulous Caribbean vacation -- snorkeling, playing tennis and swimming a mile a day in her bikini.

"I encourage my patients who are doing well to travel, especially if it's a special trip," says Dr. Murphy, a Chicago obstetrician who teaches at Northwestern University Medical School. "Once that baby comes, you're not going to get to Paris that easily."

A trip to Anguilla "gave me time to sit back and think about names and day care and minivans," says Melissa Chessher Aspell. Ms. Aspell, a Dallas magazine editor, took a "last wonderful vacation before there were three of us" late in her pregnancy. "When you get to the whale stage," she adds, you may get some preferential treatment. Even better, there's no need to worry about extra bulges showing in a bathing suit.

"I had fun wearing that bikini," agrees Dr. Murphy. Her patients have hiked in Montana, gone on safari in Africa and toured London, among other places. Others, like pregnant women across the country, routinely continue to take to the road on business.

Although there doesn't appear to be research on the subject, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that obstetricians are receiving many inquiries from women about traveling when pregnant.

That may be especially true in 1994. The nonprofit Travel Industry Association of America and the American Automobile Association forecast record travel this summer: Americans will be making 230 million trips to destinations at least 100 miles from home.

"I've never seen anyone stop traveling because they are pregnant. Everyone just carries on," says Los Angeles sales executive Roberta Wilson, who traveled frequently through her pregnancy. She found business trips especially grueling and her advice is to let hotels know in advance about your pregnancy and ask for a comfortable room.

"Give yourself a break and plan for some down time, whether you're traveling on business or vacation," advises Chicago public relations consultant Jennifer Schade. "You'll need it."

Any pregnant woman should discuss travel plans with her doctor ahead of time and consider the difficulties of being in a remote locale should an emergency arise.

Here are some suggestions for safer and more comfortable trips from Dr. Murphy and the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

* Always wear a seat belt. "Studies clearly have shown much more fetal and maternal harm in accidents when women weren't wearing a seat belt," Dr. Murphy says. While studies show overwhelmingly that the fetus recovers quickly from any pressure a seat belt might have exerted in an accident, only 14 percent of pregnant women buckle up. Fasten the belt snugly across the shoulders and low on the hips.

* Keep your circulation going. Stop frequently on car trips. Get up and walk around on planes and do feet and ankle exercises in your seat.

* On plane trips, ask for an aisle seat near the front to make it easy to walk around and get to the bathroom. Drink plenty of fluids. Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes. Support hose may help counter swelling caused by the change in air pressure.

* If it's necessary to fly near the end of a pregnancy, get a letter from the doctor stipulating that you are fit for travel. Requirements differ from airline to airline, so check ahead for what you'll need.

* When traveling abroad or to remote locales, take a copy of your prenatal record and find out where medical facilities are located.

* Allow extra time for travel at airports so you don't need to rush, and for car trips so it's not necessary to drive so many hours at a stretch.

(For a free copy of "Travel During Pregnancy," send a stamped, self-addressed business envelope with the name of the pamphlet to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Resource Center, 409 12th St. S.W, Washington, D.C. 20024.)

"If you can, fly instead of drive," suggests College of Obstetricians spokesman Dr. Mary Anna Friederich, who practices in Phoenix. "That way you'll be going from one city to another. You won't be out in the middle of the countryside if you need help."

"Listen to your body and pace yourself," says Dr. Murphy. "It would be nice if you felt great all of the time through a pregnancy, but that's not always the case."

New Jersey executive Kathryn Galica, for one, travels with TC large plastic bag in her briefcase during her pregnancy. "In case I get sick," she explains.

I know the feeling. I crisscrossed the country on newspaper assignments through my first two pregnancies, toting a portable computer in one hand and a garment bag in the other. When pregnant with my third child, I even waddled around Paris, feeling incredibly conspicuous in a city full of slim, chic women. It took me twice as long to recover from jet lag.

In retrospect, I was probably nuts to keep up the grueling pace. My concessions: I began checking my luggage, I never skipped a meal, and I always carried granola bars.

Wherever you are, don't be afraid to tell people you are pregnant or ask for help. Arriving late at a hotel, desperate for a meal, Kathryn Galica was told room service would take hours -- until she explained that she was pregnant and starving.

"The food came right away," she says.

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