Eveline Harvey 's Opinion

Eveline Harvey is nzherald.co.nz's travel editor.

Eveline Harvey: Read the fine print when travelling for two

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Although many airlines permit women with complication-free pregnancies to fly until reasonably close to their estimated dates of delivery, getting travel insurance cover might not be so easy. Photo / Thinkstock
Although many airlines permit women with complication-free pregnancies to fly until reasonably close to their estimated dates of delivery, getting travel insurance cover might not be so easy. Photo / Thinkstock

With the impending arrival of our first child later this year, my husband and I have decided to escape the Kiwi winter for a week and make the most of our final holiday together before becoming parents.

Vacations of this sort - so-called 'babymoons' - have increased in popularity over recent years but, as I discovered when booking our trip, there are a few extra things to take into consideration when you're travelling for two.

Although many airlines permit women with complication-free pregnancies to fly until reasonably close to their estimated dates of delivery (Air New Zealand, for example, allows women to fly until the 36-week mark without medical clearance), travel insurance cover for pregnancy-related medical complications can be difficult to obtain for those more than 20 weeks pregnant.

Given that most pregnancy literature recommends the second trimester (approximately weeks 14-27) as the optimum time for a pre-baby holiday, this can be problematic.

Of course, some people are comfortable going overseas without travel insurance and do so on a regular basis. According to a Herald on Sunday article last year, as many as 40 per cent of New Zealanders travel without adequate insurance.

For me though, travelling without cover has never been an option - and certainly not in my current condition.

Of the travel insurance providers I looked at, AA, Southern Cross and Tower offered cover for complication-free pregnancies until the 20th week.

State offered pregnancy cover until the 24-week mark, while TravelSure, 1Cover and Columbus Direct offered cover until the 26th week.

Beyond that, the only cover I could find was the Pregnancy Extension Option on Columbus Direct's policy, which insures travellers providing their trip doesn't extend beyond the 30th week of pregnancy.

Even taking these options into account, it always pays to read the fine print.

Many of the policies aren't available to women carrying more than one child and while they will cover your medical expenses, they don't necessarily extend to the costs associated with childbirth or care of a newborn, which could leave you footing overseas hospital bills regardless if you go into labour unexpectedly.

So is it wise to go on a babymoon at all?

Lesley Dixon, a midwifery advisor at the New Zealand College of Midwives, says short-haul flights to places such as Australia and the Pacific Islands are unlikely to be a problem. Nevertheless, she recommends pregnant women get their travelling out of the way before they reach the third trimester.

While there's no documented evidence flying beyond that is particularly dangerous for a pregnant woman, Dixon says the risk of going into labour prematurely obviously increases the closer a woman gets to her estimated date of delivery - and in-flight deliveries are a scenario airlines want to avoid.

"With regards to flying, the issue is really the forced immobility. The fact that you're sitting for long periods of time in one position... that starts to put more pressure on your body.

"During pregnancy your blood volume increases... so there are some changes around your circulation and blood volume that actually means you're at slightly increased risk of deep vein thrombosis."

To combat these potential health risks, Dixon recommends pregnant women get up and walk around at least every hour to hour-and-a-half while flying and that they remain hydrated.

She also says pregnant women should speak with their lead maternity carer before booking any overseas travel so they can get advice relevant to their particular situation.

"We (the NZ College of Midwives) would really suggest that if you're going to have a holiday, the earlier in pregnancy the better."

Eveline Harvey

Eveline Harvey is nzherald.co.nz's travel editor.

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