In just under two week’s time I will be jet-setting off to Vanuatu for a week long trip over New Year. This trip is quite different to most as i will be 18 weeks pregnant.
While that is all very good, I don’t feel pregnant! The only symptoms I have really experienced are nasal congestion and I am definitely showing… but to me it just feels like the aftermath of an indulgent weekend. However, two scans now confirm that I am most definitely pregnant, so I had better get used to it. I now have this huge responsibility and I have been told what to eat and what not to eat, what I can and can’t do and I have committed to being sober for the duration of my pregnancy. Therefore, not feeling pregnant at all has meant I have had to stop at times and remind myself I am growing a little human inside of me. This was most definitely the case on my last trip to Airlie Beach where i had to re-evaluate my itinerary. Therefore i know this next trip, especially as it is overseas, is going to take some planning as I am not someone who can have a ‘holiday’ where I spend a week or two just relaxing by the pool or beach. I did have it all planned out, deep water dives, quad-biking, horseback rides through the sea, zip-lining through the jungle… surely all of that’s fine while I still feel so great, right!? No, no apparently not! This isn’t about me anymore because if it was I sure as hell would take all risks.
With my trip just around the corner I have been forced to face facts and do some thinking and planning before leaving. So, here are my suggestions for planning an overseas trip whilst pregnant.
When to fly.
My flights were booked before I knew I was pregnant, but luckily the timing was perfect! My doctor said flying and going overseas in the second trimester is the best time. This is because your likelihood of miscarriage is far less after your first trimester and all those nasty sicky feelings have subsided. By the third trimester there is always the risk of premature labour, you’re pretty damn huge and you’re starting to feel tired again.
If you are planning to fly in your third trimester most airlines let you fly up until 36 weeks. However, it is best to check with your airline what their requirements are and whether they require a medical certificate etc.
Most travel insurances cover pregnancy but you are not insured for any expenses that arise due to the normal development and consequences of pregnancy, including routine medical consultations and tests (such as ultrasounds) and the childbirth itself. You will likely be covered for any unforeseen consequences of the pregnancy or childbirth. This however, does not mean that cover is provided for the health of a child born on the trip. This confirms that it may be in your best interest to travel in your second trimester when risks of complications are lower.
If you are planning to travel and are knowingly pregnant, it is best to choose a country that does not require vaccinations you are not already vaccinated against. This is because not enough is known about vaccinations and the risk they pose to your unborn child. In your first trimester blood tests, your doctor can assess your immunity to a number of diseases. If your travel destination is already booked it is best to discuss with your doctor or midwife how to commence with your travel plans, they can help you weigh up the risks of contracting the disease verses having the vaccination or whether to cancel your trip altogether.
On the plane.
The flight to Vanuatu is super short at just three hours, thank god! The only preparations I intend to make for this trip is to take a small travel pillow with me to help my ever expanding waistline and I to get comfortable. I am also hoping to discuss with my doctor if there are any safe nasal congestion sprays I can take. As I mentioned earlier, this is the only symptom I am experiencing with pregnancy at the moment and I almost always develop a nasty cold from flying at the best of times!
For those pregnant woman planning a long-haul flight, I would practice the general activities recommended to reduce risk of blood clots, i.e. compression stockings, drinking lots of water and getting up to move around regularly.
If you are prone to travel sickness, speak to your doctor or midwife before taking your usual remedies to check they are safe with no risks to the health of your unborn child.
Food & drink while overseas.
With every trip I love to fully immerse myself in the countries culture and that means trying all the local dishes they have to offer. I will eat from street vendors, local markets and shabby looking restaurants and never once have I had food poisoning. While I think I have a pretty strong stomach and good immune system that unfortunately is not enough to stop me from catching listeria, although rare, a foodborne illness which can be fatal to your unborn. Your doctor or midwife will have provided you with a general list of foods to avoid.
I fully intend to continue to sample the local cuisine in Vanuatu but I will endeavour to take the following precautions:
- Ensure all meat is piping hot – unfortunately this limits choice at markets and vendors to food that is being freshly made before your eyes and not sitting around all day. Even so, the freshness of food may be questionable.
- Wash all fruit and veg brought from vendors, markets & supermarkets with bottled drinking water before eating.
- If you don’t know what it is or you wouldn’t eat it at home, don’t eat it! If you can’t get an English explanation as to what you are about to put in your mouth, don’t risk it.
- Take your own lunch to any day trips that say ‘lunch provided’ in case the meal is too risky to eat i.e. pre-packaged sandwiches, buffet style meals etc.
- If ordering a mocktail, get someone to taste it first to ensure the ‘no alcohol’ or ‘mock’ part didn’t get lost in translation.
- Research! If there is a particular dish or drink you know about why not have a Google first, read about the ingredients and risks etc. Kava for example is a popular drink in the Pacific Island’s and not enough is known about its affects on pregnant women and unborn children. My guess is, if it leaves you with a feeling of intoxication it’s probably not good for either of you. I have already experienced Kava and will not be taking any risks to sample it again
Of course none of the above is completely risk free. If you are really worried, stick to recommended restaurants only, avoid all seafood and ice in drinks and take your own snacks with you to avoid eating something risky due to being totally ravenous! You could even prepare a message in the language of the country you are visiting that explains you are pregnant and that all food must be fresh and newly prepared and any meat well-cooked.
Day trips & activities
There are risks in everything these days, even crossing the road can be fatal. However, I have discovered there are a few big no, no’s when it comes to pregnancy. Most high impact and contact sports are not recommended and could harm the unborn child and even cause miscarriage. This includes a number of sports and activities such as jet-skiing, speed boating, quad biking, rugby, martial arts etc and some of these also pose great risk of falling. Underwater diving is also very dangerous for obvious reasons. Here’s some ideas to ensure a safe but fun trip.
- Check with any day trip/activity providers whether there are any risks for pregnant women. Most companies will have policies stating whether pregnant women should partake in the activity and you will likely have to sign a disclaimer. In particular if you are going on a boat trip, ensure the type of boat is suitable.
- Avoid hot-tubs! This sucks but there are risks to your unborn child from overheating.
- Snorkelling is a great alternative to diving. However, as I experienced on a reason trip to the Whitsunday’s, pregnant women can get more breathless than usual. It’s a good idea to snorkel with a float.
- If you like surfing, paddle boarding may have to be your alternative for now. It’s much slower paced on calm waters and kneeling instead of standing can reduce the risk of falling off.
- Wear sensible shoes. Whatever you are doing, walking, dancing, trekking etc ensure you are wearing comfortable and appropriate footwear to reduce the risk of falls.
- Beware of drunk people! Although you will be sober throughout your trip plenty of holidaymakers and travellers alike won’t be and their balance and character are likely to be impaired. The last thing you need is someone intoxicated falling all over you.
As mentioned previously, I am not very good at this. However, now more than ever is the time to get some R&R! Again, if you are planning a trip and are knowingly pregnant remember to think about how you like to relax when picking a hotel. If you like the beach, choose somewhere that is only a short stroll to the ocean so that you don’t get tired. Perhaps a large swimming pool and comfy loungers are important or a luxury spa? If like me, the trip is already planned have a research of what your hotel and area you are staying in has to offer to meet your relaxation needs.
Hopefully some of the above advice will get you thinking about your first trip overseas as an expectant mother. It’s a learning curve for me right now and I will be sure to add to this upon my return and highlight any areas of oversight. The most important thing is not to take any unnecessary risks, there will be other trips!
Update: Here’s some photo’s of the trip just to show you that being pregnant needn’t spoil all the fun….
Snorkeling, kayaking, beach strolling, pool lazing, car trippin’… it’s all perfectly do-able for as long as you feel comfortable.