Regardless of whether you have been planning your pregnancy for a long time or it all happened rather spontaneously, you will certainly have a bunch of questions once you see a plus on the pregnancy test. Those of us who like to travel or are regularly involved in certain sport activities might even be intimidated at first, questioning whether this new adventure might drastically change the way we spend our free time. Of course, we all want a healthy baby and a nice pregnancy without complications to start with, but we could also feel like we have to make the best of this precious time we still have left as a couple. Even if you already have children, you may want to experience something special with them before they become big siblings. After all, soon they will have to share your attention with someone else. And there is nothing better than one or more great trips and vacations before the baby arrives, well at least for those of us who like to explore the world. Now that I´m almost at the end of my second one I can say I have had two very different pregnancies which have left me with sufficient experience in order to write such a post. Since I am not a doctor, I advise you to consult one before taking a trip yourselves and consider this post to be just another source of additional information, based solely on my personal experiences. So when, where and how to travel during pregnancy and what do you need to pay special attention to when planning trips during this special period of your life? Read more below.
WHEN TO TRAVEL DURING PREGNANCY | travelling in the first, second and third trimester
FIRST TRIMESTER | 0 – 14th pregnancy week
During the first three months of pregnancy, your body goes through a whole series of hormonal changes which can cause many problems. In addition to mood swings, the most common include nausea, pungent smell, vomiting and resistance to certain foods, general fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness, intermittent bleeding, bladder infections, constipation, sore breasts, increased need to urinate and more. During this period, there is also the highest risk of miscarriage. As I said, you can go through the first months without any major problems, but you can be a little less fortunate and some or even all of the above will happen to you. In my first pregnancy I did not vomit at all, and in the second I did it every day for a little over 3 months (often even several times a day). At first, I had intermittent bleedings which can be quite scary, but I didn´t have them this time. But both times I did well with fatigue, because apart from nausea, I had no problems with daily chores, walks and easier recreational activities.
TRAVELING IN THE FIRST QUARTER can therefore be a great idea, or a total failure. Based on my personal experience, I recommend not planning any longer and physically demanding travels to the other side of the world for this time of your pregnancy – instead, you can wait and see how it goes, you can still book something last minute if you feel up for it.
SECOND TRIMESTER | 14 – 27th pregnancy week
Usually, the symptoms of the first trimester miraculously disappear during this period, as if your body is finally getting used to all the changes, and this was the case during both of my pregnancies as well. Conveniently, the end of nausea and vomiting in my second pregnancy came just in time for the festive December period and I was finally able to enjoy the delicious feasts again. In both pregnancies, I had a tremendous amount of energy during this period and simply no need for an afternoon rest, I basically felt like I wasn’t pregnant at all.
TRAVELS IN THE SECOND QUARTER are the easiest to pull off, based on my experience as well as the general opinion of experts. Also, the risk of miscarriage is now significantly lower than in the first trimester. So if you want one last long escape before the baby arrives this is your best time to go.
THIRD TRIMESTER | 27 – 40th pregnancy week
Unfortunately, in this last period, various problems often reappear, which can be not only very unpleasant, but also dangerous. Your belly is getting bigger, you are less and less agile, shortness of breath and fatigue can occur again, contractions can start much too early and as a result you can have a premature birth, there are many complications that require you to rest for most of the day and so on and so forth.
TRAVEL IN THE THIRD QUARTER is therefore, in my opinion, the best to be done spontaneously, depending on your overall well-being,. You might also consider looking at nearby destinations rather than faraway places. In any case, consult your doctor before each long journey, because for example, you also need a medical certificate to travel by plane from a certain week onwards, and from 36 weeks onwards, most airlines do not allow you to fly anyway.
On top of the mentioned ones, a whole range of symptoms, diseases and dangers can occur at any time of the pregnancy. In my first pregnancy, for example, I had many bladder infections, which sometimes developed into kidney inflammation with accompanying high fever, so an antibiotic was needed each time. In the second one, I was therefore very careful and the inflammation of the bladder hit me only once. In my first pregnancy, I also suffered from pregnancy diabetes, which occurs due to hormonal changes and disappears after giving birth, at the expense of which I had a strict diet. I also had to measure my sugar levels five times a day with a special device and keep a diet diary. For someone who loves eating and is never on a diet, it was really a torment. In my second pregnancy, these problems thankfully did not occur, for which I am really extra grateful. In the first one I had no problems with cramps and premature contractions, while in the second I landed in observation in my 33rd week due to premature contractions and went home with bed rest prescribed until the end of the pregnancy. This can, of course, happen much earlier in some cases. In addition, there are a whole bunch of more severe medical dangers for you and the fetus at the expense of which you simply might not be able or allowed to travel. There is simply no way of knowing how things will go, so don´t take any travel for granted.
WHERE TO TRAVEL DURING PREGNANCY | how to choose destinations for travelling while pregnant
Choosing a destination can be the biggest challenge and here, too, I think it is most important to choose places, activities and types of accommodation where you will feel most comfortable. You may even return to a destination that you already know well or you have already visited. Be sure not to be too brave, just follow your instincts. While some women may feel comfortable visiting remote places with poor infrastructure, other prefer to stay in more civilized areas closer to home. Again, there is no general rule as long as you enjoy a carefree holiday and fill up the energy for the upcoming weeks. When choosing a destination, you can consider the following:
For example, the Zika virus is especially dangerous for pregnant women, so travel to countries where outbreaks are common is generally not recommended. The same goes for malarial areas and destinations where dengue fever is a problem. Additional vaccinations during pregnancy (and also a couple of months before pregnancy) are not recommended, so destinations which require doses of vaccines against, for example, yellow fever should be saved for later, unless you are already vaccinated against those. Certain infectious childhood diseases, such chickenpox, measles and more, are also dangerous for the fetus. Also take care when in contact with wild and stray animals.
hygiene and medical care
It makes sense to inquire in advance about the quality of medical care in the places where you travel to. Is there a medical institution or hospital nearby, what is the general hygiene standard in the area, how is the food quality like. Of course, don’t forget about travelling with proper (international) health insurance.
From my own experience, I recommend that you choose destinations with a favorable, mild climate, rather than those with extremely hot and humid or extremely cold climates. Even if you are otherwise a big fan of tropical beaches and enjoy lounging in the hot sun, this may not suit you during pregnancy.
sports orientated holidays
Certain sports are not recommended during pregnancy, so it will be necessary to wait for the time after you give birth with ski holidays, several days of strenuous trekking and many other activities. All sports that increase the risk of falling down, strong shaking and causing lack of oxygen (for example, diving) are generally not recommended. Above all, this is not the time to start new sports activities you have zero prior experience with.
Luxury hotels, tents, motorhomes, apartments, hostels or something else. During pregnancy, many expectant mothers may want a little more comfort than they are used to. And if you feel that way, then just go for it and enjoy. Of course it is totally possible to spend a great holiday in a simple tent or basic caravans, if this is your thing. Just remember that during pregnancy you have to go to the toilet much more often (which may be a little less convenient in the camp sites), that it is harder to stand up from flat floor mattresses and you might want to have a good bed to sleep in rather than a thin armaflex, that we may not want to share a bathroom with other guests, we might want to have a peaceful afternoon rest, we may enjoy the air conditioning more than ever and similar.
know the risks
While I advocate the fact that pregnancy is not a disease and it is important to keep a sober head and use common sense with all the different information and advice out there, it is still okay and even necessary to be aware of certain risks. If you are questioning the following: what if something goes wrong, if you have to go to the doctor and stay under observation in the hospital, what if you happen to give birth prematurely, what if this and what if that – if you are ready to face all of the above even at your desired holiday destination, then there is probably no reason to stay home.
HOW TO TRAVEL DURING PREGNANCY | means of transport on travels while pregnant
Depending on the airline, it is generally accepted that travel by plane during pregnancy is allowed up to 36 weeks. Sometimes, it is necessary to submit a medical certificate beforehand, so if you want a longer trip by plane, do not wait until the last weeks. In my first pregnancy, I traveled by plane in both the first and second trimesters and somehow didn’t notice a difference, it really depends a lot on how you feel. Since long haul flights mean many hours of sitting still, I suggest buying compression socks (you can even have them custom made for you), drinking enough water and regular exercise during the flight. Since you will also have to visit the toilet several times, I recommend a seat at the aisle. Otherwise, I prefer to travel with a larger handbag or backpack, but in case of pregnancy carrying and lifting heavier things is not the best, so better choose luggage on wheels.
You may opt for a longer car trip instead of air travel. This can have financial benefits, you can take more things with you, you can also stop several times along the way, sleep over somewhere and even make a road trip out of this journey. Again, do not forget about regular stops and visits to the toilet, stretching your legs regularly and drinking enough water. If you are bothered by a seat belt, you also get a special extension for pregnant women, you also might be more comfortable if you take a pillow. For longer rides, I definitely recommend compression socks too.
motorhomes and campervans
For me personally, these are some of the best means of transport during pregnancy, ensuring us both a toilet and a fridge full of food at our fingertips at all times, plus, the bed is always ready for a short rest. In addition, we have more freedom and flexibility while travelling, we also do not need to book accommodation in advance, so we can easily adjust the itinerary to our abilities and wishes.
buses and trains
I have nothing against traveling by bus and even less by train, but during pregnancy I always prefer to travel in a car. It is more comfortable, but above all I think it is important to have a certain freedom of deciding where and when to go, which is not available on the mentioned public transport. Even when traveling by plane, I would rather choose to rent a car at the final destination than using public transport while pregnant, but everybody is different.
I have absolutely no experience with cruising, but since I know that this is a popular form of vacation for many families with small children, it can probably be for pregnant women as well. In short – if you are used to cruising and this form of travel suits you, then why not during pregnancy. Otherwise, I personally don’t think now is the right time to experiment.
WHILE TRAVELLING DURING PREGNANCY ALSO DON´T FORGET ABOUT:
consult your doctor before you go
Before each long trip at any stage of pregnancy, I think a short consultation with a personal doctor or gynecologist is a must, even if you feel completely fit. This will keep you more informed about potentially important risks that you might not even think about yourself.
international medical insurance
Without this, travel during pregnancy really isn´t a good option. Now, I´m not a fan of insurances and I usually do not have s special one for travelling abroad except the things covered by my credit card insurance plus the coverage inside EU, but while pregnant I just wouldn´t take the risk since you really can´t know which potential medical services you might need.
food & proper diet
Consumption of certain products can be extremely harmful to the baby (for example, alcohol, unpasteurized cheeses, raw or undercooked fish and meat, certain types of fish, raw eggs, unwashed vegetables, even some spices and teas, and so on) and should be avoided throughout pregnancy. I find this always easier to do at home than on a trip, because many times there is simply not much food choice or we can´t really tell what is inside the dishes we order. Pay attention to hygiene and always choose as freshly prepared dishes as possible, cooked on high temperatures. I do not recommend sandwiches and snacks that stand on shelves for a long time – even, for example, at gas stations. Above all, especially when traveling, drink enough water on a regular basis so that you do not become dehydrated and do not forget to take in enough folic acid, vitamins and minerals.
take your time to rest
Even if you feel full of energy, take a short break here and there during the day and make sure to get enough sleep overnight. I’m not exactly the type to lie down for an afternoon nap, I also often don´t sleep enough, but maybe that’s what led me to premature contractions in my second pregnancy. Pregnancy is definitely not a disease and thus an excuse for excessive laziness (of course if you feel good), but here and there it is still very necessary to slow down.
recreational physical activity is good for you
Although I mentioned resting just above, of course we should also take care of sufficient recreation during pregnancy (unless our doctor prescribes rest). This is quite easy on trips, as there is always the possibility of a walk, an easier cycling trip, swimming and similar. Of course, everything should be within your capabilities and not too adrenaline-inducing. Longer drives and flights when we sit in a piece for several hours can be problematic, so remind yourselves to stretch your legs regularly. From this point of view, choosing a seat by the window is quite pointless.
Some pregnant women take on less weight than others, but in principle we all end up with extra pounds and a relatively huge belly. And we grow quite constantly, from week to week. If you go on a trip for several weeks, some pants that were right for you when you left home can be very tight towards the end, so focus more on comfort than appearance. I love comfortable quality maternity leggings, over which I dress a tunic or a longer sweater. I have several pairs in black and they are great for a variety of occasions. If you are traveling to warmer places, I recommend flip-flops and comfortable sneakers, definitely non-tight footwear, as feet often swell during pregnancy. I myself have also experienced huge fluctuations between “I’m freezing cold” to “it’s so freaking hot”, so I recommend the onion-style wardrobe for travel during pregnancy. Comfy pants, loose T-shirts, larger jackets, vests, scarves or pareos, maxi dresses and similar.
important doctor´s check-ups and examinations
The time of travel during pregnancy will not only be conditioned by the approved holidays at work, but you should also pay attention to certain important doctor´s appointments. Some of them can be performed only in certain weeks of pregnancy (in addition to the main ultrasound examinations, such as nuchal translucency, morphology, additional tests for early detection of chromosomal abnormalities and more), so it makes sense to be at home then.
- seek medical help if symptoms problems occur
I rarely go to the doctor on my own and I usually wait for the symptoms to go away on its own, take some pain relief pills and rest a bit. Well, in pregnancy, this is not the time to do so. Especially not while travelling in foreign countries. So if you notice any suspicious symptoms (bleeding, severe cramps, fever, pain when urinating or signs of inflammation, sudden vomiting, diarrhea, significant water retention, severe abdominal pain or other), go to the nearest doctor’s office or hospital immediately.
relax and enjoy
But in general, try not to worry to much – of course it is right to be aware of all potential dangers, precisely to avoid certain inconveniences at the start and know how to react properly in case of problems during your trip, but the point of travel and holidays in pregnancy is basically optimal relaxation and enjoyment of free time with your loved ones and not constant worry about everything that could go wrong. So, dear future moms, let yourselves be pampered, treat yourselves to something for your souls and enjoy this precious time, you deserve it!
TRAVELLING DURING PREGNANCY IN THE PANDEMICS
I really wish I didn’t have to mention this chapter, but given the situation, I just have to. I spent the entire second pregnancy during the Covid-19 pandemic, which of course made travel very difficult and so far there is no real indication that the situation will soon return to normal, at least as far as international travel is concerned. Despite various limitations, we still managed to get around a little bit, we´ve had days on the snow as well as on the beach, but did not travel by plane this time and also not outside Europe.
At the very beginning of my pregnancy we did a couple of short road trips around Slovenia with our LR Defender, followed by a tiring, over 10-hour drive to Germany, followed by a slightly more comfortable 13-hour trip to France some weeks later. After a month at the French Atlantic we returned to Germany for a couple of weeks and drove to Slovenia again. One last long drive back to our home in Germany where we went into the obligatory 10- day long quarantine for the 3rd time already. I can say that it was difficult to endure so many days at home in our small apartment without the possibility of going out for a walk while pregnant but still, all the trips were worth it.
We did not decide to travel by plane outside Europe, although it would be theoretically possible, for example, to the Maldives, to Mexico or to Zanzibar and a few other places. We know quite some people who went, but somehow it was not an option for me to accidentally get infected and undergo quarantine somewhere on the other side of the world. In any case, adequate health insurance is even more important at this time, it is probably wise to double check health care systems at the destinations you travel to during this weird times and pay even greater attention when it comes to hygiene. Far from being super scared of the virus, but I am definitely very happy that I managed to stay healthy all these months of my pregnancy and we got to visit both of our family and friends, those in Slovenia and those in France.