You’ve booked an anniversary trip to Paris with your beloved, but a couple of months before the trip, you find out you’re pregnant. What do you do? Is it still safe to go? Do you need to take special precautions? It’s not an uncommon scenario. Many women also travel during pregnancy because it’s required for work, or because they enjoy frequent travel. As long as you have a normal pregnancy with no unusual risk factors, there’s no reason you shouldn’t go.
Lissa Rankin M.D.recently offered her tips for expectant moms who want to travel abroad, beginning with the reminder that pregnancy is not a disease. It is a completely natural state of affairs for most women, so there is no reason to limit your travels, assuming all is well with your health and you aren’t planning on visiting a war zone or some other extreme situation.
If you have a trip already planned, or would like to take one while your baby is still in utero, here are a few tips for keeping yourself as safe, healthy, and comfortable as possible:
Timing The first thing you’ll want to think about is the timing of your trip. The sweet spot for traveling during pregnancy is the second trimester. Most women feel nauseated and tired during the first trimester, and physically uncomfortable during the third. The second trimester, however, is a time of increased energy for most women. Plus, the baby isn’t large enough yet to cause the chronic backaches, indigestion, swelling, and frequent urination of the last third of a pregnancy.
Additionally, you obviously won’t want to be too far from home if you are nearing the end of your pregnancy. The risk of early labor or late-term problems cropping up means that you’re better off sticking close to home for the eighth and ninth months. Most airlines won’t allow you to fly in your eighth month or later without special permission from your doctor, as well.
Modes of Transportation The mode of transportation matters more when you are farther along in your pregnancy because you’ll be physically bigger, more uncomfortable, and the size and cleanliness of bathrooms will matter more. Air travel can be tough in the later months because of the cramped seating (bulkhead or first class is a very good idea if you can swing it) and small bathrooms. Trains and buses can have some of the same issues, depending on what country you’re in, and you’ll want to try and stay seated on these to avoid falling when in transit. If you are traveling by sea, you should not only make sure there will be a doctor aboard just in case, but also keep in mind the possibility that you could be more susceptible to seasickness than normal. Car travel is fine, but always be sure to wear your seat belt and leave airbags engaged for safety. Regardless of how you travel, taking frequent breaks for stretching the legs is recommended.
Medical Records Being very far away from your own doctor, hospital, and medical records can be unnerving during a pregnancy, but you can hedge against unexpected medical issues by taking a copy of your medical records in a sealed Ziploc bag tucked into your luggage. This way if something happens and you do have to seek medical care in a foreign country, at least the doctor there will be able to quickly get up to speed on the specifics of your pregnancy and health. You probably won’t need them, but it’s easy insurance.
Eating and Drinking One of the biggest risks of international travel is diarrhea from exposure to microbes that we’re not accustomed to. While they may not bother the local population in the least, they could wreak havoc on your system, and you don’t want that while pregnant. Most doctors caution pregnant women to only drink bottled water or other bottled or canned drinks, even in countries where the drinking water is considered safe. You also may want to avoid local uncooked produce and undercooked meat, as well. It’s a little less fun than trying all the exotic goodies you come across, but it’s a small price to pay for your and your baby’s well-being.
Comfort While pregnancy is a normal state of affairs, it can also be uncomfortable, so taking a few extra steps to increase your comfort level is a good idea. Take your favorite pillow, pack for comfort over fashion, and allow yourself to get plenty of rest and go slowly when you need to are good rules of thumb. Thinking ahead of what will keep you safe, healthy, and happy while you’re away, will ensure you have the best trip possible.
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