So you booked a flight. Maybe it’s a month away, maybe more. But as the date draws near, panic sets in. What to wear, what to bring, which suitcase? If you’re traveling to a different climate, you start assessing that season’s wardrobe, starting to pick off things that should've been replaced years ago. What about the photos? Those photos are going to end up on Instagram after all, and maybe even in some travel albums or scrapbooks down the line, so you’re going to have to look cute. And what’s that -- you’re pregnant? This is where things can get really complicated. But fear not - my tips will help you navigate traveling while pregnant.
Lots of people are scared of traveling while pregnant probably because of the lack of information that exists. A Google search for traveling while pregnant revealed very little, and Pinterest wasn't much help, either. Even in talking to friends and family who had kids, many were concerned about my travel plans during my pregnancy, but they weren't clear as to why. My doctor advised not to travel in the third trimester. And of course, it's important to avoid "Zika countries" when pregnant or even trying to conceive. I've also heard that some airplanes will not let you fly if you're "showing too much."
One common theme is that the second trimester is the best time to travel, as most women are past morning sickness and aren't too limited in terms of mobility just yet. The bottom line is that despite a lack of consistent information out there, it's usually very safe to travel while pregnant.
It was with this in mind that my husband and I planned our three week trip to the Mediterranean. Our 14-hour flight would take us from San Francisco to Tel Aviv, and was probably the longest flight I'd ever taken in my life; I was four and a half months pregnant. Was I nervous about this? A little. And while I'd upgraded to Comfort+, the only remaining seats were two in a row of three - so I was in a middle seat for the duration of the flight. Thankfully, I was prepared for the flight, and everything after, and was able to make the most of my trip.
Traveling while pregnant shouldn't be taboo. Just like traveling when you're not pregnant, there are a handful of things you can do to ensure you're comfortable, avoid illness, and make the most of your time abroad. Here are my five tips for traveling while pregnant.
Get The Flu Shot
This applies if you’re traveling from September - February. It’s never too soon - or too late - to get a flu shot. Pregnant women are advised to get one in general, and especially if planning to sit in a middle seat on a flight overseas. The good news is, you don’t even have to schlep to your doctor’s office anymore. Walgreens offers zero copay with most insurance (read: free flu shots). Just make sure to correctly mark “I’m pregnant” on the intake form, and as an added precaution, when the pharmacist waves the needle above your arm, politely double check that this is indeed the safe-for-pregnancy version of the shot.
Wear Compression Socks
I might as well put socks in quotes as these things are no joke. Because of our flight delays from Oregon to California, which routed us through Colorado, I had been wearing compression socks for about 24 hours by the time we arrive at our destination. I went to a local shop to be professionally measured and sized for my pair. Gone are the days of odd, nude-toned socks (though they are still available). I went with the black version, footed, and with enough length to pull all the way to my upper thigh. If they sound like yoga pants, or sound sexy, they're not. I suppose they kind of look like yoga pants until they end with one final dig at the upper thigh. They are designed to hold you in, and although they’re quite snug, the discomfort is worth it. Wearing compression socks on long haul flights lowers the risk of developing blood clots. They also protect against things like varicose and spider veins which often develop during pregnancy and don’t really ever go away afterwards. Here's the pair I purchased, which can be ordered online.
Make The Rounds On Board
Travel is a great excuse to kick back and relax, something that comes fairly naturally (at least to me) while pregnant. But it’s also very important to remain moderately active. That includes during your travel time. We’ve all read about how sitting is the new smoking, and you’d never smoke while pregnant - so don’t let yourself fall into the trap of being sedentary, either. This is especially important when traveling by plane. Get up and walk around at least every few hours. This will help get blood flowing and also helps reduce the chance of blood clots. Remember, we have up to 50% more blood in our body during pregnancy, so it’s important to keep it moving.
When it comes to your travel itinerary, incorporate light exercise by walking to destinations instead of driving, maybe even riding a bike if you feel comfortable enough to do so. Pool and beach time is great, especially if you’re swimming or walking along the beach.
Stay Hydrated & Stay Regular
Traveling can do a number on us, even when we’re not pregnant: so many new germs, eating at odd hours and trying new foods, and just that general unsettled feeling of sleeping in a bed other than your own. Travel is one of my greatest passions, but it can leave me feeling a bit off. Two tips my doctor gave me were to stay hydrated, and to stay regular. Even if you’re not pregnant, this is great advice and something I’ll stick with beyond these nine months.
When it comes to hydration, I always ask for water on the plane. If I really want something else, I’ll always ask for a cup of water to go with it. In the airport, I’ll look for coconut water, which aids in hydration, and I try to eat some fresh fruit or salad for additional water content and nutrients. I also carry Nuun tablets (available in most health food stores), which are dissolvable hydration tablets you simply add to 16 ounces of water. I love that this requires you to drink two cups of water first off, and second, each tablet is loaded with electrolytes. At only 10 calories and 1 gram of sugar, this is one of the healthiest hydration tablets on the market. Just be careful not to purchase the "energy" versions, which contain caffeine, especially if you're pregnant. So we’ve talked about intake, now let’s talk about outtake.
What we put into our body is as important as what comes out. And sometimes travel leaves our tummies in knots. There’s nothing more uncomfortable. My doctor recommended Psyllium, a natural fiber supplement to be taken daily to diffuse those “maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that” moments. Enough said.
Bring Motion Sickness Bands
The last idea that came up right before we flew out were these motion sickness bands. If you’re planning to travel by boat, or even if you’re taking short flights within another country, these are a good idea. When pregnant, most medication is off limits, which is why these motion sickness bands are ideal to tow along. They’re not much larger than a hairband, and slip over your wrists, putting pressure on specific points to keep you centered even on the rockiest rides. I wore mine on a few bus tours, short plane rides, a ferry ride, and on a motor boat, and didn't have the slightest bit of motion sickness throughout my trip.
If you’ve checked these five items off your list, it should be smooth sailing from here. Have you had success with these tips? Comment below. Or maybe you have a few more tips for traveling while pregnant? Please leave them in the comments below.
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