Just as I bought my ticket for my first Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Umbria 2012, I also found out I was 6 weeks pregnant.
I did the math quickly in my head and realized I would be 22 weeks pregnant at the time of travel, and wondered if I could indeed make the trip. After some internet searches and a talk with my OB/GYN, I decided to go for it, and I'm so glad I did! After all, my mom was also 5 months pregnant with me when she traveled to Hawaii, and my husband, Nick, had no problem with it. He had just one condition: he would join me. I spent two weeks on a whirlwind trip visiting Madrid, Lisbon, Assisi, Positano, Dallas and Santa Barbara. International travel is totally doable with a bun in the oven; you just need to follow a few guidelines.
Doctor Knows Best
Before you purchase any tickets or book any rooms, have a realistic conversation with your doctor about your individual pregnancy and any risks specific to you. If the doctor thinks it's not the best idea, then you need to stay put. Make sure to get a copy of your medical records to keep with you in case of an emergency so that any physician abroad will know your history.
Keep Your Timeline in Mind
Ideally, the second trimester is best for flying, because you're past the risky first trimester and yet not far along enough to worry about going into labor. Plus, you're belly doesn't have its own gravitational pull at this point and makes it easier to get around.
Fly Safely and Comfortably
I have to say I wasn't thrilled about flying Coach, sitting up trying to sleep on an overnight flight from Dallas to Madrid. I spoke to my doctor and he said Ambien was completely acceptable to take during pregnancy. The only risk it posed was sleeping for too long and needing to walk around to prevent blood clots. So I timed it so I would take half an Ambien and sleep four hours, then get up, walk around, use the restroom, then return to my seat and take the other half for another four hours' sleep. Another thing I did to prevent blood clots was wear over-the-knee compression socks. Not fashionable, but who cares? I just wore comfy leggings over top of them. I also included a sleep mask and inflatable neck pillow in my carry-on.
Wearever You Go
It's hard to say what clothes to pack because that depends entirely on your location and the season, but what worked for me was leggings, a simple dress or tunic top, a pashmina and comfortable flats. I pretty much just sported a variation of this dress code everyday.
Drown Yourself in Water
One thing any traveler battles is dehydration, which in pregnancy, is especially frowned upon. Drink so much water that you have to pee constantly (are you already doing that?) and that you think you will drown if you consume any more water. A bonus is that being super hydrated helps reduce jet lag.
Avoid the Dreaded Swelling
I was not able to avoid it. My feet blew up like balloons. You might think it was from walking everywhere, but it actually happened during the second day of the conference after I sat for two days. I'm pretty sure it was a combination of way too much sodium and wearing heels one night...totally not worth it. I did have a doctor check me out just to make sure I wasn't at risk for blood clots, and everything was fine. My legs were just incredibly unsightly and uncomfortable.
Take Advantage of Scenery
See if you can find someone to take maternity photos of you. One day, you can tell your child about their first international experience. What better way to memorialize your pregnancy than in a fantastic locale? My cousin Amber of Amber Bridges Studios did mine, and I am thrilled with them. It's incredibly convenient to travel with your cousin who just happens to be a gifted photographer! But even if you aren't so lucky, arrange for someone else with you to take a few. Just keep in mind some interesting backgrounds and poses, as well as the lighting.
Beware of Off-Limit Foods
One amazing thing about jet setting is trying the local foods. You DO need to curb your appetite AND your enthusiasm in some areas, because food borne illness poses a hazardous situation for your unborn child. For example, I had to take extra care in Italy to avoid unpasteurized cheeses (so disappointing!) and cold deli meats (no prosciutto!) which was a little difficult, but I found my way around it. It just takes a little willpower and some pre-planning. And avoiding sketchy street foods.
Take the Open Seat
Any time you're on public transportation, be it train, subway, bus, or whatever, make sure you grab a seat. You're pregnant after all, and if no one seems to be giving up a seat for you, rub your belly and give someone the stink eye...you're sure to guilt them into it.
Booze It Up...Kinda, Sorta
I didn't let the no-alcohol problem deter me from enjoying a few bars on our trip. As long as no one was smoking, I could fit right in and enjoy a night out too. In Lisbon, when it was just us girls (Jenny, Amber and me), I tried a few non-alcoholic beers that our bartender at Restaurante Guilty by Olivier was nice enough to recommend. It made me feel just a little more festive.
Don't Use Pregnancy as an Excuse
One thing I was very proud of myself for was never using pregnancy as an excuse not to explore something. I walked all over Lisbon, which is nothing but gorgeously steep hills. And I did the same thing in Positano, opting to take the stairs instead of the buses. You have the most energy in your second trimester and you should take advantage! Obviously, listen to your body and don't overdo anything. And make sure you stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. Always consult your doctor before trying anything.
I'm so glad that I traveled while pregnant...it was an incredible experience and hopefully the first of many international trips for my darling daughter, Elinor!
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