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On the Spot: Pregnant and not flying

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Question: My sister is getting married in Maui. I am pregnant with twins and cannot travel by plane. I can drive to California to catch a ship to Hawaii, but I have no idea if there is a ship going there. Do you have any suggestions?

--Heather Woodall, The Woodlands, Texas

Question: My wedding is planned on the Big Island for Jan. 1. My sister (who is also my matron of honor) will not be able to fly to Hawaii because she will be eight months' pregnant and her doctor said "absolutely not." Is there any way to get my sister to Hawaii from California?

--Aimee Davidson, South Lyon, Mich.

Answer: After receiving these letters just days apart, we concluded that there must be something in the water but, alas, it wouldn't be these women.

This may look like a dilemma about the absence of passenger ship service from the West Coast to Hawaii — and we mean service that would allow a traveler to stay in port for more than a few hours — but the real story here is about traveling while pregnant, by air or by sea.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so we must emphasize that each woman needs to have the travel discussion with her doctor.

Generally speaking, for airline travel, "there is probably minimal to no air travel risk for a healthy pregnancy in a healthy woman," said Dr. Vic Kovner, a Southern California physician who is an expert on health and travel.

But airlines and cruise ships tend to be very cautious about pregnant travelers, and the policies vary from carrier to carrier.

American Airlines, for instance, says on its website: "For international travel or any flights over the water, travel is not advised within 30 days of the due date, unless the passenger is examined by an obstetrician within 48 hours of outbound departure and certified in writing as medically stable for flight. Travel within 10 days of the due date for international travel must have clearance from our Special Assistance Coordinators."

Carnival Cruise Lines, the heavyweight among the ship set, says in its brochure: "Guests who are 27 weeks or more into their pregnancy at the time of the voyage will not be permitted to sail."

Other lines set a 24-week limit. The reason: They don't want you going into preterm labor on the Lido deck.

If you think it can't happen to you, let me point you to my sister, who didn't think it could happen to her either. After two normal pregnancies, in her third pregnancy she went into labor between her 24th and 26th weeks and delivered a 1-pound, 14-ounce baby girl. Only their proximity to top-notch neonatology facilities saved the baby. According to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 12% of births in this country are preterm.

So we don't really have a solution for either of our letter writers this week, except they might consider moving the weddings to the mainland (California is always nice on New Year's Day, right?), or, failing that, setting up a wedding webcam. Because, in the end, what really matters most is that everyone, especially the new arrivals, lives happily ever after.

Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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