Recently a kind person complimented me on being a travel diva, who makes exploring with a bump (and eventually a baby), look effortless. It was a very gracious comment and I had thanked her generously for it, although in my mind, I remembered a completely different reality. Pregnancy at any stage is not easy and when you combine it with traveling, the result could be disastrous if not planned properly. It is an extremely stressful activity even for a nomadic bird like me and crazy hormones, nausea, swollen feet, aching back, fatigue, constant urge to pee etc make things really tough. Then there is the huge appetite which makes a pregnant traveler carry a picnic hamper sized goodie bag full of snacks of her choice and a growing belly gives major body image issues. Looking good is an essential requirement to feel good and most pregnant women don’t feel pretty at all. But traveling goes hand in hand with taking pictures and the thought of appearing in photos in sack like clothes and unsightly flat shoes, can sometimes make a moody pregnant woman burst out in tears. However, it is also true that expecting a baby is a tedious process which seems to go on forever and thus, comfortable vacations bring the much needed distraction from the aches and worries.
I have traveled extensively during all my pregnancies and personally find these breaks to be important breathers during the entire 9 months. Despite being the size of Venus and very clumsy, I have enjoyed my bumpy holiday a lot and over the years, have quite nearly mastered the art of traveling, when expecting a baby. This post is dedicated to all to be moms with itchy travellers feet and may you explore hassle free with your extra belly baggage.
Traveling during the first trimester –
- Choose your destination carefully – The first trimester or the first 3 months of pregnancy is the most critical phase and high chances of miscarriage makes travelling a scary thought. Although many women travel during this time without any issues, most would prefer to be safely cocooned. In such scenarios, if you have already discovered that you are pregnant, make sure that you first consult with your gynaecologist. Though, I have been lucky to have had healthy pregnancies every time, for many women out there, it is a risky business. My suggestion, is to listen to your doctor and if you get a green signal, discuss the destination with him/her. While, camping in Lahaul or an African safari might seem very tempting and brave, it makes sense to opt for destinations which provide easy accessibility, good medical care and comfortable accommodation choices. Romantic city breaks or quiet rural getaways are my own favourite options during this time and a vineyard or farm house stay would be my ideal go to place. Also, for those hailing from countries which provide governmental health insurance, opting for cities or countries which accept your medical insurance card can be a big relief in case (god forbid) something happens.
- How you travel matters – Many women experience horrible morning sickness and nausea during this trimester and winding, mountainous roads make the condition worse. This is also the beginning of wanting to go to the toilet more than usual so make sure that you have enough breaks during your road trip. Flying can be a real pain throughout pregnancy and blood clotting can be a serious threat to those traveling for two. Opt for aisle seats so that you can make your loo visits or walking around as frequently as possible and make sure to stretch those legs. Nap as much as possible, wear comfortable loose clothing and I had found compression socks to be a huge relief during my horribly long Dubai to Frankfurt flight. Personally I love traveling on trains during the first trimester and they are the most comfortable modes of transport at this time.
- Eat carefully – This exciting phase of your life is not exactly the best time to try out new cuisines and it is better to stick to food which nourish you and not make you throw up. A lot of global cuisines use raw fish, rich spices and herbs which may harm your baby and thus to be safe, leave the swanky new “must try” raw vegan restaurant for the next visit. The journeys to and fro to your destination are also moments when you need to consider being careful about food and I personally suggest a pregnant traveler to carry snacks of her choice on person. Since, you will not be sporting the precious bump at this time, it makes sense to spell out your condition to people, especially if you are invited by someone. Your hosts might have the best intention in their hearts by taking you to the new Japanese restaurant, but it will surely help avoid an awkward situation if you mention about your condition. That way, your hosts will take extra care and you can actually enjoy yourself, rather than sitting and gawking at the sushi and sake. The thumb rule of traveling during this time is that, if you crave for something that you can eat: even if it is childish, just go for it. Nobody really denies a pregnant woman of her cravings, so make hay while the sun shines.
- Carry your own goodie bag – For a pregnant woman, being hungry is a serious emergency and thus carrying snacks will ensure that you maintain your sanity when the inflight service gets delayed. Granola bars, chocolates, cheese, fruits etc make great to go snacks and they will not leave you at mercy of inflight meals which may slowly start being too less for you. Plus, since any traveling may result in unexpected changes, your own cache of snacks will help you tide over those stressful situations with ease. I had traveled to Greece during my first trimester and had a harrowing time at Rome airport during transit. My delayed Alitalia flight had arrived at Rome at wee hours of the morning and not a single cafe or restaurant had been open at that time. The flight had not served any inflight meal and the result had been a gnawing hunger which had driven me nearly mad till the cafes had opened. So to tackle situations when plans go awry, carry ample amount of dry food items, fruits etc with you and nibbling on your favourite chocolate is a great way to tide over the crazy hormonal mood swings.
- Rest a lot – Fatigue is one of the biggest mood killers during pregnancy and traveling will make it worse. While road trip exhaustions are quite bad, it is the jet lag which is the real thing. High altitude, cramped space, recycled air and pregnancy result in bone shattering tiredness and jet lag hits an expectant traveler really hard. Prepare yourself to doze off at the drop of a hat and carry your favourite flight pillow for that purpose. Post flights, know that you will be crashing out for hours and that your overworked body needs those naps to rejuvenate itself. Walk around a lot during flights and avoid dehydration at all costs. It makes sense to carry your own water bottle which you can get refilled and sip as much water as you can.
- Go easy on the activities – Pregnancy isn’t a time to be a hero or an adrenaline junkie, so go easy on the itinerary and choose your activities well. Many fun things to do will be off limits and it is better to leave them like that for the time being. Space your activities with ample amount of rest and fitting in a spa session or foot massage within the itinerary can be very relaxing.
- Don‘t forget your pills and papers at home – Pregnancy calls for extreme caution and this needs to be redoubled while traveling. So don’t forget your folic acid and other vitamin pills at home and carry copies of your latest gynaecology reports, blood group card etc with you at all times. Travel insurance at this time is absolutely mandatory and carefully choose one which includes pregnant travellers.
Finally, traveling during pregnancy is very much a doable thing as long as you respect your body and the life growing inside you. Whether, you are traveling for business or leisure, make sure that you know your body‘s limits and cut yourself some slack. It is also a great way to bond with your partner and one of the last moments that you get to spend as two. So, savour the time before the journey gets bumpier and give yourself a first trimester break.
NOTE – Every woman‘s body is different and each pregnancy is a whole new experience. These tips are solely based on my own experiences and not meant for high risk pregnant women. Also, you may not experience or feel the way I did during my pregnancy and the above mentioned are mere general guidelines. Please consult your doctor before traveling and for any special concern.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE