Pregnancy doesn't mean you have to sit at home and twiddle your thumbs. However, there are some caveats in vacation planning when expecting a baby. First off, a pregnant woman should always discuss any trip plans with her health care provider. Lots of people warn against travel in the first trimester, and some women have mistakenly gotten the idea that travel could cause miscarriage. The actual worry is that she may miscarry away from home, since the rate of miscarriage in known pregnancies hovers around 20%. No one wants to experience a pregnancy loss, but it can seem much worse when far from home.
Other first trimester concerns are about the fatigue or nausea that many woman battle in the early weeks. Most people try to time their travels for the second trimester, when the threat of miscarriage and the ickiness of morning sickness has likely passed. Many airlines won't allow women who are beyond their 36th week of pregnancy to fly, and some cruise ships deny pregnant women beyond the 24th week. Women who are carrying twins or more, have pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or other health issues that may indicate a preterm or complicated labor should stick very close to home. All pregnant women should travel with their medical provider's information, their insurance info and emergency contact numbers.
If a trip has been long in the works, and the stick turned pink, a woman has a tough choice on her hands. Should she go ahead and enjoy the long-awaited vacation, or give it up? Flying, driving, and travel in general will not make a body reject a pregnancy. Many women go on vacations without yet realizing they are carrying an extra tiny passenger. However, if a woman is in her first pregnancy, she has no idea how she'll be feeling in a few weeks. She may be the lucky one who sails through feeling like a million bucks, or she may hurl more than a major league pitcher. Some ladies don't have much nausea or vomiting, but cannot simply peel themselves off the couch for the first several weeks. If a trip is planned, and the couple doesn't want to cancel, they should just make sure to build in allowances for queasiness or fatigue. For instance, maybe head to the beach for some sun rather than going for the cheese factory tour or the speed boat cruise.
14 Foodborne Illness
If traveling out of country, especially to a warm destination, the mantra is "don't drink the water." This isn't the worst advice. Pregnant women are far more vulnerable to foodborne illness and contaminated water than other people, and many illnesses can threaten the pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, advise that the safest water is tap water boiled for 1 minute. Next safest is bottled water, but standards for water safety in bottled versions may be limited or non-existent depending where you are. Carbonated drinks or drinks made with boiled water are safe, too. Pregnant women should not forget about ice and know what water source it came from. Never eat raw, fresh fruits or vegetables, and avoid raw or undercooked meats or fish. If you feel pretty confident about the cleanliness of the produce, make sure it's at least peeled. Also, pregnancy is not the time to try the unrecognizable street vendor food. Adventurous eating is not for expectant moms.
13 Zika, Malaria And Other Such Hazards
Zika has splashed across the headlines this year, and to sum up the advice for pregnant travelers: don't go anywhere where the Zika virus is known to be. It's not worth it! Zika can cause birth defects including developmental disabilities. Malaria is another danger for the pregnant woman in particular, as the illness can be more dire in this group, and many preventative medications are dangerous to unborn babies. Also, medications to prevent malaria are never 100% effective, and neither are steps to avoid mosquito bites. Opt for a less tropical location or one without the risks of infectious diseases. Before planning a trip to a faraway location, check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a lowdown on the area in question. It may be a dream, once-in-a-lifetime trip, but it can wait until later in one's lifetime; babies are irreplaceable and can't be put on layaway.
12 Too Far Off The Beaten Track
Some people love zigging when others are prone to zagging. If a woman loves the remote, never-heard-of destinations for vacation, that can be a danger in pregnancy. Before making final trip plans, a pregnant woman should research the area and find out how far the location is from a major medical center. This isn't the time to be somewhere that involves a dugout canoe and a private plane to extract the vacationers. An expectant woman can include her doctor or midwife in this research, as the medical provider can look into the options in the desired location for medical support for a birth. While most births can take place virtually anywhere safely, a woman needs to know that, should some complication arise, she is somewhere close to available help. It's not enough to see that a medical clinic or hospital is nearby, but whether or not they are equipped for births. That can be an issue even in some more remote US destinations!
Pregnant women can expect to feel thirsty more often as it's easier to become dehydrated. A woman should drink at least 8 glasses of water daily, and more if doing more strenuous things, sweating or working out. She should also remember that caffeinated drinks are actually dehydrating. If a woman's urine is not light or clear, and is instead dark it's a sign she's not getting enough fluids. Of course, milk and juices also count! Drier environments can make people dehydrated more quickly, but so can hot, humid climates. It's always a good idea to ask for extra water on airplanes, as they are notoriously dry. A pregnant woman should not think she's being a pain or an inconvenience when requesting such things. Becoming seriously dehydrated can lead to preterm birth as well, so it can be a serious matter. So grab a couple more bottles of water whenever heading out, just to be safe.
10 Preterm Labor
If a woman falls into a high-risk category of pregnancy due to her previous pregnancy history, chronic health conditions, or because she is carrying twins or more, she most likely won't be permitted to travel late in the 2nd trimester. However, about 1 in 10 women give birth too early, and many of these have no known risk factors for prematurity. If a woman is on vacation and begins to experience any signs of impending labor, she needs to seek immediate medical attention. Those signs would include: bleeding or leaking fluid from the vagina, dull, low back ache, pressure in the pelvic area, cramping like during periods, contractions, and abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea. Delaying because she thinks it will pass, or because she doesn't want to ruin the trip is more than foolish; it may be life-threatening for mother and child. Becoming sick, dehydrated or pushing beyond safe limits can put a woman at risk for preterm labor.
Amusement parks are big vacation destinations here in the US and in many parts of the world. While there may be some things a pregnant woman will have to skip, much of the amusement park or theme park can be enjoyed by expectant moms. Places like Walt Disney World post lists of attractions that pregnant women should avoid. Those include rides like all the "mountains" Big Thunder, Splash and Space, as well as Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, Tower of Terror, and any overly bumpy rides or those with bigger drops. Disney provides a complete list on their website, and so should most other theme park destination. Generally, women should avoid things such as ziplines, toboggan slides, alpine slides or water slides. This is mostly because of the possibility of impact and abdominal blows, or intense drops. A pregnant woman should always follow warnings and directions at theme parks, and not just wing it. Another thing pregnant women tend to not realize is that after a certain point in pregnancy, their weight distribution makes them clumsy. Early pregnancy can make a woman vulnerable to dizziness or motion sickness that is uncharacteristic of her normally.
There are two kinds of vacationers; those who are on a mission to see and do everything they can, and those who are on a mission to do as little as possible. Perhaps some people fall somewhere between those two camps. For those who do the commando method of traveling, pregnancy is the time to switch attitudes. It's a good idea to pack comfy shoes with squishy supports, perhaps support stockings, and take frequent breaks. A mid-afternoon nap is never out of line, either. When scheduling, consider only one block of serious action in a day, and make that for the woman's probable most energetic time of day. Sitting down and putting up her feet is a great idea. Also, women should take advantage of help available to them, such as letting others lug around the bags or hopping on the tram instead of hiking two miles in 95 degree heat to the car in the crowded theme park parking lot.
7 Blood Clots
Many pregnant women haven't heard of DVT, but they should know the risks and symptoms because it can save their and their babies' lives. DVT is deep vein thrombosis and is a condition where a blood clot forms within one of the deep veins, typically in the legs. Symptoms include leg pain and swelling, or DVT may not cause symptoms. A blood clot can travel to the lungs, a pulmonary embolism, and cause serious problems, even death. To avoid it, pregnant women should never sit for more than an hour or two, but should aim to get up and move around every half hour or so. If that's not possible, at least exercising the legs will help. Other preventative measures include compression stockings, if advised by a physician. It's also interesting to note that 80% of DVT in pregnant women occur in the left leg.
If a pregnant woman is planning a trip to the beach or some other warm locale, she should take preventative steps to avoid becoming overheated. Women tend to have thermostats set a bit higher while expecting a baby, so they are already at a higher risk for becoming overheated. For that reason, avoid sitting in direct sunlight for long periods, wear a big, floppy hat, and drink plenty of water. Also, pregnant women should pace themselves, as they are prone to dehydration, fainting and dizziness. They should let people know when things are getting too much for them, and take breaks as needed. Overheating can also cause preterm labor, and places like hot tubs and saunas are no place for pregnant bodies. The intense temperatures can harm developing infants. Pregnant women should wear light colored, light weight clothing, and layers that can be added or subtracted are advisable. Plan for indoor activities during the hottest parts of the day, usually mid-afternoon.
5 Falls And Injuries
She may have been a ballerina before the bun was in the oven, but once expecting a baby, a woman loses her grace and sure-footedness. It has to do with the awkward placement of all that additional weight, along with pregnancy hormones loosening those joints so that's it's easy to become injured. First thing, on vacation a pregnant woman shouldn't do anything that's likely to cause a spill. This includes horseback riding, mountain biking, skiing or snowboarding, and waterskiing. It doesn't matter that she has never fallen before. It's simply not worth the risk for this one time in a woman's life when she is responsible, directly, for another life - her child's. Women should consult guides before heading out on any trails or hikes, and wear appropriate footwear. Six months pregnant walking on uneven cobblestone streets in heels may be cute, until the wobble and subsequent tumble. If it's questionable whether a pregnant woman should attempt something on vacation, and a reliable answer can't be found, then the best answer is "maybe next time."
4 Cruise Ship Sickness
Cruise ships are hesitant about pregnant passengers to begin with, and doctors aren't much more approving of this vacation mode. While seasickness can be controlled typically with medicine, it isn't guaranteed to work. Other hazards of cruise ship vacations is the occurrence of infections such as norovirus. We've seen the news footage of cruise ships with ill passengers being held up in quarantine. It's important to find out about the medical facilities aboard the ship prior to making arrangements. Pregnant women should also inquire as to when the ship was inspected by the CDC. All ships are required to submit to twice yearly unannounced inspections. The results are available to the public, too. Being particularly careful about proper hand-washing techniques, and following safe food and water guidelines whether aboard the ship or at a port destination is key. Some cruises don't allow pregnant women past the 24th week, so checking in well ahead of time on cruise ship policies is recommended.
3 Unsafe Blood Supply
Probably not the first thing on the mind of a pregnant woman planning her vacation itinerary, but nonetheless important, is knowing how safe the blood supply of a country is, if traveling internationally. While no one would want to believe there would be an opportunity to use blood supply, better safe than sorry. There could be an accident, preterm labor where the mother needs transfusion, or especially in the case of Rh negative mothers when blood supplies are necessary and critical. Checking out the US Department of State website can clue women in on what countries screen their blood. Blood should be regularly screened for HIV, and hepatitis B and C. What if a woman went into labor and required an emergency C-section? It's important to know that blood supplies are safe when traveling as an expectant mother because accidents can happen anywhere. Not all countries have high standards on testing its blood supply, either.
2 Language Barriers
Most people wouldn't think of a language barrier as a potential danger for a pregnant woman on vacation, but it definitely can be. Imagine a woman touring a country where English is not typically spoken, and she thinks she is having contractions, about a month or more too soon. What would she do? Does she recognize signage in that country for hospitals? Could she immediately grab a passerby and explain her emergency? Before heading off to another country for a trip, a pregnant woman should be well prepared to understand and say some key phrases in the host country's language. "Help!" "Hospital?" "Where is a bathroom?" are just a handful of phrases or words needed. Have an app ready to translate as a backup. Write up emergency information in the host country's language as well, with the vacationer's vital info, emergency contact numbers and any relevant info, such as the woman's month of pregnancy and any other health conditions or medications being taken.
1 High Altitude
Some of the most popular destinations in the US and the rest of the world are at high altitude. I live in the Mile High City of Denver and know how hard it can be to adjust to the altitude at first. For the first weeks of living here I experienced really dry throat, and had daily headaches. When I upped my water intake, things eased up. Colorado obstetricians have noted a strong correlation between the high altitude and preterm labor, as well as bleeding complications. If traveling at higher elevations, a woman should take it extra easy and stay hydrated. She should be aware of the signs of altitude sickness, such as headache, insomnia, and nausea. Overexertion is very easy in high altitudes as well. When descending, take the slowest route to make the changes as gradual as possible. It's possible to become lightheaded or dizzy as well, so being watchful of how she feels and sticking close to her partner are good ideas. Additionally, if out of country and somewhere where the water supply safety is iffy, the water should be boiled for 3 minutes if at or over 6000 feet, instead of the usual one minute.