To travel during pregnancy or not to travel during pregnancy?
By Michelle Mayefske
That is the question many families ask themselves when they are thinking about taking one last holiday before baby arrives. If you are expecting your first child, maybe this is the last opportunity you will have to travel child-free for awhile. Maybe you have older children but want to squeeze in one more family trip before the early postpartum days are here before you know it! Whatever your motivation, know that with some simple planning strategies, you can easily prioritise your comfort and health without compromising your travel experience!
I am very fortunate in the fact that I have been able to travel during my last three pregnancies. My experiences traveling to Poland, Mexico and Alaska were nothing short of amazing and I admit that I learned a lot along the way! I’ve compiled a short list of travel tips that I hope you find useful should you decide to go on holiday during your pregnancy!
When to Travel:
Speaking with your healthcare provider before travel is always recommended, but for uncomplicated pregnancies it is generally safe to travel at any time. Do keep in mind that the closer you get to full-term, the more likely you are to run into travel restrictions with different agencies (or have your baby early!). Some airlines will not allow you to travel past 36 weeks of pregnancy, for example. Also consider how you may be feeling. Planning a holiday in the first trimester of pregnancy may not be ideal if you are experiencing morning sickness and you may want to avoid the third trimester when you may be more easily fatigued. Many people will travel during the second trimester, also known as the “honeymoon” phase of pregnancy, when more severe morning sickness has eased and you’re likely to be more comfortable.
Prepare for the unexpected:
This is one of my number one tips! Pregnancy symptoms have a tendency to sneak up on us. One week is smooth sailing and the next, bam! Constipation, swelling and fatigue you haven’t felt before. While it’s impossible to predict if or when these things may happen, it’s worth noting that they are possible and they can crop up during the most inconvenient times- like when you’re on holiday! Any time I’ve traveled in the past during pregnancy I brought items I didn’t need while packing but could in the future.
My most recent holiday was to Alaska and I was 15-17 weeks pregnant. I knew we would be traveling to some remote areas, meaning I may not be able to access a chemist in the middle of the night if needed. I prepared myself with stool softeners, extra probiotics, paracetamol, chamomile tea, motion sickness bands and a couple of my favourite essential oils. Do you know what I used? EVERYTHING except the stool softeners! I was happy I went prepared because as I expected, the chemist shops were few and far between and overpriced! It’s also worth noting that if abroad, you may not know what over-the-counter products are safe during pregnancy or be able to read the packaging if it’s not in your native language.
Load up on water and bring snacks:
This one seems obvious but it’s easy to forget just how much water and snacks we may need during pregnancy. The USDA recommends pregnant women drink THREE LITRES of water per day! That’s almost 100 fluid ounces! It’s really difficult to get that type of water intake in a dry airplane cabin if you’re flying half way around the world. Make sure you bring your own refillable water bottle or purchase enough bottled water before you get on a train, plane or in a vehicle. Staying hydrated is important to ensure that amniotic fluid is renewed and it helps relieve constipation, which can be extra problematic while traveling. Along with water, don’t underestimate the number of snacks you may need. No one wants to be hangry and nauseated while on holiday! Bring something that has protein to help keep you full and some fiber to again, help with constipation. Granola bars, nuts, crackers and dried fruit are some tasty, travel-friendly options.
Bring some sleep aids:
Getting a good night’s sleep can be extra difficult while on holiday. The hotel beds may be uncomfortable, you’re in a new environment, you wake frequently to urinate and those people two doors down from you are ridiculously loud at 2 AM! Bring in the sleep aids! Some extra pillows, ear plugs and an eye mask can do wonders in many situations. If you’re on a long commute, bring along a neck rest so you can relax further without head bobbing or waking with neck pain. Ideally you want to get at least eight hours of sleep while away to prepare your body for the following day and because extra rest is often needed during pregnancy anyway.
Be reasonable with your travel planning & expectations:
While you may not currently be experiencing much fatigue, it’s still probably wise to prepare a holiday that is more low-key than you may be used to. Seeing the sites is understandably on everyone’s list but expecting yourself to walk around town for eight hours may not be realistic during pregnancy. You are likely to tire more quickly and no one wants swollen ankles or back/sciatic pain because you have pushed yourself too much. A great solution is to create built-in time for rest at a restaurant, café, beach or spa. Your body will thank you for it!
Remember to also plan activities that are low-risk for pregnancy, as certain activities are not recommended. The ACOG recommends avoiding activities that create a high risk of falling or anything that could injure you or your developing baby. These include scuba diving, horseback riding, zip-lining, parasailing, surfing, etc. Even if you cannot partake in any of these activities, you can still be an enthusiastic on-looker to any of your travel companions. Being a spectator is also a great opportunity to rest and put your feet up! There are plenty of other ways to stay active on holiday including brisk walks, yoga or enjoy the buoyancy of a low-impact swim.
More than anything, listen to your body and what it is telling you while on your travels. If you feel overtired, overheated or unwell in some way, stop what you are doing and don’t be afraid to take a break.
Be Prepared. Be Smart. Be Adventurous!
Fun in Alaska!