For many expectant parents, a babymoon is a final opportunity to take off, unencumbered before a new addition comes along and changes life forever. However, experts say that mums-to-be should be mindful of the risks of travelling in the advanced stages of pregnancy.
New research says that 35% of Aussie women would continue to travel by air up to week 32, despite the increased risks of complication and preterm delivery. A further 6% said they would travel up to week 40, well into the ninth month of pregnancy.
The survey conducted by Comparetravelinsurance.com.au signalled an alarming trend towards late term travel during pregnancy.
Natalie Ball director, says:
“It's surprising to learn how many mums-to-be are happy to travel late into pregnancy. It’s important to note that some travel insurers will not cover you for anything related to your pregnancy past 23 weeks, and you may find it harder to get cover past 26 weeks. You can obtain travel insurance for up to 32 weeks, but at an additional price."
Ball warns expectant travellers to do their research and understand the risks involved with travel before booking.
“Check with your doctor and make sure you’re up to date with any potentially dangerous diseases, such as Zika. It’s also essential that you disclose any health issues or pregnancy complications with your specialist before taking to the skies."
babies on board
In June alone two incidents of babies born mid-air made international news. Both babies were born prematurely and were thankfully delivered safely due to the expertise of medical passengers on board.
Ball warns that a premature delivery or complications on your babymoon can be traumatic for numerous reasons.
"Many parents-to-be are unaware that travel insurance rarely covers childbirth, or care of a newborn child. The frightening prospect of going into labour overseas could also set you back a fortune in medical bills. It pays to be informed of the conditions of your cover before you consider where and when to babymoon."
In a telling example, an Australian couple holidaying in Hawaii in 2015 were stung with a hospital bill exceeding $1.35 million when their baby boy arrived prematurely at 26 weeks. While the mother’s medical bills were covered, the couple’s travel insurance did not cover the child’s extensive medical expenses.
While birth costs are particularly high in the Unites States (starting at about $19,000), the financial risk of childbirth can be eye-wateringly expensive in many other parts of the world. More complex procedures, such as a caesarean section can increase the price of giving birth overseas by as much $18,000.
which insurers cover childbirth?
At the of time of writing, Columbus Direct and InsureandGo were the only travel insurers that would cover childbirth (subject to terms and conditions). Columbus Direct was the sole provider that offered cover (at an additional premium) for the care of a newborn child.
Pre-term birth risks
According to WHO (World Health Organisation), nearly one in nine babies are born prematurely (before 37 weeks).
Due to the prospect of an early delivery, Ball advises expectant mums to consider local babymoon destinations as they near the tail end of their pregnancies.
"It's worth coming to terms with the possibility of a premature birth as you near your due date. Leaving aside the drama and fear of giving birth overseas, it’s simply an expense that most people couldn’t afford. While mums-to-be are advised to take that restful, pre-baby getaway, your health and that of your unborn child should take precedence. Travelling long distances away from home as you enter your final weeks of pregnancy is both risky and unnecessary. A destination within driving distance of your hospital or birth centre is the ideal choice."
travel insurance and pregnancy: what you need to know
Plenty of travel insurers do cover pregnancy, but may consider it a pre-existing condition, which will require you to complete a medical assessment before cover is granted.
“Be aware that travel insurers will differ in their policies towards pregnancy. For instance, each provider will cover you up to a certain gestation and may exclude certain pregnancy related complications.”
Common pregnancy-related complications that may restrict your cover include conditions such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, placenta praevia and hyperemesis gravidarum (excessive amounts of nausea and vomiting throughout pregnancy).
Insurers may also place restrictions on cover for multiple pregnancies and pregnancies arising from assisted reproduction services.
"Always read your policy documentation to understand the conditions of your cover. If you are expecting twins or have conceived through IVF, you may find your cover options to be more limited."
Tips for travelling during pregnancyWhile travelling during pregnancy is considered safe during your first and second trimesters, it’s still a good idea to do some fact checking and seek medical advice before you go. The following factors are worth considering before you jet off:
Trimester of the essence:
Timing is crucial when it comes to planning the perfect babymoon; too early in your pregnancy could see you waging war with morning sickness, too late can have you facing discomforts and possible complications. Somewhere in the middle of your second trimester is the ideal time to plan your pre-baby break.
Destination: A remote island might be the ultimate in luxury but in some instances, not the best location for your babymoon. Consider locations with good road access, transport networks and access to medical facilities. If you are planning to visit a developing country be sure to check smartraveller.gov.au for any governmental warnings.
Activities: Depending on your energy levels your babymoon may be best spent unwinding and relaxing rather than taking part in sightseeing tours and physical activities. Mums-to-be should be wary about participating in activities like scuba diving, ice-skating, rock-climbing and amusement park rides. Certain sports and activities may not be covered by your travel insurer either. Speak to your doctor about recommended activities before you book anything up front.
Local food and drink: A pad Thai from a street vendor might be exactly what you’re craving, but can you guarantee its freshness? Be cautious about food you suspect may not have been kept refrigerated or properly cooked through, and make sure the tap water at your destination is safe to drink.
Vaccinations and medication: Are you suffering from heart burn or morning sickness? Make sure you’ve got any necessary medications and vitamins packed in your case rather than relying on local pharmacies. Plan any vaccinations well in advance and make sure they’re suitable for you and bub.
Plane support: Swelling and dehydration on a plane is common - especially for those that are expecting. Sitting on a plane for eight hours can also put you at risk of deep vein thrombosis. Make sure you get some good stretches in every couple of hours (at least), drink heaps of water, wear comfy clothes (with room to move), and wear DVT flight socks. Remember, if you’re over 28 weeks you may need a letter from your doctor saying you’re fit to fly.
Ready to roll
Having the right travel insurance for your holiday is always important, but especially so when you’re pregnant. Expecting a child makes you more vulnerable than the average traveller as your immunity is supressed and your susceptibility to certain illnesses and infections heightened. On the off-chance you do need to cancel your trip or require medical care abroad, having the right cover will allow you to put your feet up and enjoy some R&R before life as you know it changes forever.