It was Thursday night at 9pm. We were standing in the middle of our living room, staring at the pregnancy test stick. A quick reference to the instructions on the box confirmed our suspicions–we were having a baby. We spent about 5 minutes jumping around the apartment, laughing and hugging it out, and then we got back to business…packing. After all, we had a 6am flight to Rome the next day.
Looking back on the epic “travel in first trimester” experience now, from the comforts of the second trimester, I have to say, we did a lot of stupid things. We only had 9 hours between when we found out we were pregnant and when our 10-day, around-the-world trip commenced, so we were blissfully ignorant of the dos and don’ts of travel in the first trimester. We googled the basics, and I was quickly disappointed to learn that my dreams of Italian wine at every meal, daily sushi in Tokyo and hot baths in Budapest were not highly recommended for expecting moms. But there was also a lot that we had to find out the hard way during that quick, 10-day trip around the world.
Here’s the thing: you can travel all you want up through 36 weeks of pregnancy (talk to your doctor, though, if you have any medical conditions). But there are some things that you can and should do in order to make sure that you’re taking care of both yourself and that little alien growing inside of you. Here are some quick tips for traveling in the first trimester.
See your doctor before you travel. We obviously didn’t have time to do this between 9pm and 6am the next morning, but it would have been smart. Your doctor will not only confirm the pregnancy, but they will also be able to give you a letter confirming your pregnancy. Seeing a doctor is not only smart, but it will also ease your state of mind. I spent a lot of time over those 10 days worried that something was wrong because we hadn’t had the time to see a doctor and to make sure that baby and I were healthy beforehand.
Carry that letter that your doctor gave you when you’re traveling. We happened to be flying into Tokyo from Europe at the height of the Ebola crisis. I found myself getting nauseous every time the plane landed, and was always worried that when I sprinted from the plane to the closest bathroom in the airport to throw up that someone was going to freak out and drag me into quarantine. Having that letter can serve as an extra layer of backup should someone question why you’re heaving up that airplane breakfast in one of the terminal bathrooms.
Know where the air sickness bags are located on every plane. If you’re flying a lot, sooner or later you’ll need them. Don’t be ashamed to use them–that’s what they’re there for. Steal from your traveling partner as well because, well, sometimes one bag isn’t enough.
Know how your insurance works while abroad. Also make sure that you know the best way to contact your doctor and/or your health insurance company from abroad should you run into any issues. If your insurance isn’t extensive enough for international travel, you should consider adding on some supplemental travel health insurance.
Visit a travel clinic before you travel. Make sure you’re covered for any areas that you’re traveling to and make sure any travel vaccinations you need are pregnancy-safe.
Don’t think that you’ll be able to travel in the same way as you did before your pregnancy. Allow time for naps, don’t overload the daily itinerary, and take it easy in the mornings. This is tough for us type-A, planner types, but letting go of the itinerary was one of the best things we could have done. There still were some epic moments when I pushed myself just a little too close to the edge of exhaustion…and ended up passing out on the subway in Tokyo, for example…but for the most part, we were still able to enjoy the trip, while also keeping well-rested and healthy.
Stock up on cough and sinus medicine. As I found out the hard way, pregnant women have a greater chance of catching a cold and developing a sinus infection. Given the amount of time spent in planes and airports, there’s a good chance you’ll get a cold while traveling…and it’s no fun trying to figure out what the equivalent of Sudafed is in another country. BUT, know what the laws are for medication in whatever countries you’re traveling to. We got to Tokyo only to learn that it is illegal to bring purchase or to bring inhalers and most allergy and sinus medications into Japan…cut to me spending two days cooped up in a hotel room in Kyoto with my head hovering over a dehumidifier.
And stock up on mints and ginger. Patrick is obsessed with those weird Listerine Strips that “melt” on your tongue. I always made fun of him for it, until I found myself popping them like crazy through our travels. Turns out peppermint is a natural remedy for nausea, and I found it helped out quite a bit. I also found myself drinking two types of beverage more and more: Peppermint tea and Ginger Ale. It was those little things that helped me keep it together on (most) flights.
Finally, enjoy your trip. Traveling will be quite different when that baby arrives, and you should appreciate every element, big and small. First trimester troubles may leave you a bit run down and nauseous, but take advantage of the moments when you do feel good and live it up. As for travel in the second trimester? Well, we’re headed to Paris and then back to South Africa in less than one week, so we’ll keep you posted…
Pregnant ladies, any tips or tricks from your experience?
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