Saturday, December 04, 2010

Traveling While Pregnant

First, let me preface this post by stating that the experiences I had while traveling were just that: my experiences, and, as every woman and every pregnancy is different, be sure to take that into consideration when when planning your own trip. And talk to your doctor.

Ok. moving forward. 

This summer, when Chris and I were still pondering the idea of heading to Asia for a few weeks, I quizzed family and friends regarding their pregnant travel experiences. More importantly, I had several extensive conversations with both our hospital’s travel nurse and our midwife. Surprisingly, both the nurse and our midwife were enthusiastic and encouraging about our plans. Most of our conversation was centered around three areas: when to go, what to eat, and which vaccines I needed (and which were safe for baby). 

When to Go
It’s generally recommended that the best time for pregnant women to travel is during the second trimester and for me, this was true. In fact, Months 4 and 5 were ideal as my morning sickness wrapped up by 3.5 months and I wasn’t yet slowed down (significantly) by a giant belly. Frankly, I felt great during these middle months: my energy levels were high, I didn’t have any back pain, and all sorts of foods sounded delicious. I ate a lot of really good food in Hawaii and was able to stay (moderately) active. Now that we’re past the seven month mark, things are a bit different: I’m sluggish and my energy levels tend to flag significantly. I also get winded easily and I find that I’m happiest eating 5 or 6 small meals everyday, rather than 3 large meals, factors that make travel a wee bit more difficult. We could not have done our Asia trip in Months 6 or 7. Mexico worked fairly well in that it was a sit-on-the-beach-and-read sort of vacation and I could graze on a variety of snacks throughout the day. 

What to Eat
This should have been titled What Not to Eat but the same advice we got for Asia applied to Mexico as well. 
#1: Don’t drink the water. Pretty basic. Watch out for the ice in shady restaurants, as well.
#2: Stay away from uncooked veggies, especially salad. This was fairly difficult in Mexico as I was dying for some fresh cilantro atop my tacos. Fortunately, we had our own kitchen so most of the food we could wash and prepare ourselves. It definitely wasn’t as fun as eating out every night but it was safer. And cheaper. 
#3: This is related to #2, but, if you are going to eat uncooked fruits and veggies, give them a good scrub in a water bath with a few drops of bleach. This worked well for us. I had no problems with my GI tract in Mexico, fortunately. Also, no melons. Our midwife advised us that there was some research that indicated that melons have a pretty permeable skin, making it easy for bacteria to wiggle through. Thankfully papaya and magoes were still acceptable. 
#4: make sure that all meat is fully cooked. And, per the usual recommendations, stay away from soft cheeses (this was a biggie in Mexico with tacos and enchiladas). 

Since we’d been to Africa in 2009, all of our vaccinations were already taken care of so this wasn’t a big issue for us. Consequently, I’m not very familiar with the acceptability of getting Hep A and B, tetanus and a few other commonly prescribed vaccines while pregnant. The proposed Asia itineracy called for stops in both Cambodia and Thailand and it was the threat of malaria that eventually nixed Cambodia. There are three types of malaria medications that one is typically is prescribed, depending on your travel locale. Interestingly enough, the skeeters in Cambodia are resistant to the one type of anti-malalrial medication that isn’t approved for pregnant women. Just our luck, eh? All of Thailand was fair game though. As was Mexico. 

I was especially concerned about air travel during these trips. Our 5 hour flights to and from Hawaii (in our 5th month) were without incident. My lower back pain was minimal and I jumped up a few times to pace the aisle and get the blood moving. 

It was during the flights to and from Mexico (also 5 hours each, when 30 weeks pregnant) that I took a few more precautions. Firstly, our midwife suggested that I drink as much water as possible the day before and right before our flights as dehydration was a major concern. This also had the added benefit of making sure that I had to use the restroom constantly, which meant that I was up and walking around during the flight. Got to get that blood moving. I also wore tall compression socks. They were great and I’m pondering wearing them for all flights over 5 hours. I also made an effort to move around in my seat more and to do some stretching in the aisle. I could stand next to our seats and lean over Chris to relax my lower back. I’m sure it looked funny but I was past the point of caring, frankly. I’ve had some pretty extensive lower back pain in the last month of so and the flight home was moderately painful. Although, frankly, no more painful than driving back the 8 hours from Montana. 

Hey! Did I tell you that Bailey was off on a little vacation of his own while we were in Mexico? The lucky pup got to go visit Alex in Missoula with Megan and Eric. He even got his own double bed in the hotel. My guess is that the maids thought they had some really hairy guests spending the night in that room..

Ok lovelies, that’s it for me. Don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if you have any questions regarding our traveling experiences. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to a few months of living locally, meaning that I don’t plan on venturing further than about 20 miles from home. The reasons for this are purely logistical, we have a nursery to prepare. Today’s task: Paint!