Being pregnant doesn’t mean being confined. Image by Flickr user Montse PB.
Getting pregnant, in some ways, is a lot like getting married. The second that you admit that a Big Life Change will be happening in the next 40 weeks, an enormous contingent of doctors, salespeople, websites, and strangers shows up to tell you all about how to be a good parent-to-be (and sell you products to compensate for your inadequacies).
These people can be very helpful, like when you have a terrible case of heartburn and they suggest sucking on sour candies.
They can also be your worst nightmare, as they repeatedly give you the long list of pregnancy precautions you should be taking.
At this point, I want to bite everyone who tries to give me well-meaning advice without my express request.
But there are things to know if you’re pregnant and traveling, and not all of them were shared with me before I willingly started growing the world’s cutest parasite inside my uterus.
Since many of us who become pregnant do so in a very risk-centred environment (where everything is out to sabotage the health of our pregnancies), let’s start with the very real “don’ts” I’ve encountered thus far.
1. Avoid high-impact, high-collision sports.
Skiing, horseback riding, and sometimes bicycling are on the no-no list. So are sit-ups after week 14, incidentally.
2. Don’t eat Caesar salad dressing…
…without checking with the restaurant first, to see if it’s made with raw egg. Same for mayonnaise. In fact, DO get a comprehensive list of foods to avoid (and foods to eat in abundance).
3. Don’t sit for hours without getting up and moving around.
Blood clots are real and are more likely to develop when you fly, you’re pregnant, and/or you’re immobile.
4. Don’t make plans to go far if your pregnancy is high-risk.
Unsure if you qualify? Check with your practitioner. But don’t be too worried: If you’re high-risk, they’ll go out of their way to tell you so.
5. Don’t fly without your practitioner’s blessing…
…at least later in your pregnancy. Mine has given me the green light to fly as late as 36 weeks, but I’m also going to a midwife-owned, woman-centric, independent birth center. Practitioners at hospitals tend to be more restrictive.
Notice something: That list of “don’ts” is fairly short. If you’re pregnant in the West, especially in the U.S., that might be incredibly surprising.
Again, it’s because a medical model of pregnancy has taken over and turned the process of human-growing into a pathological condition. This is really frustrating, particularly if, like me, you’re one of the don’t-tell-me-how-to-do-it-I-do-it-my-own-way types.
Instead of a list of “don’ts,” the following is a compilation of empowering “dos” that will help you get the most out of your prenatal travel experiences:
1. Bring extra snacks.
Once you hit your second trimester, your body will start demanding loads of extra calories, and you’ll be ravenous ALL THE TIME. As your pregnancy wears on and your stomach gets compressed, you can’t eat a full meal, and you’ll be ravenous ALL THE TIME. Sense a theme?
2. Bring extra underwear (or soap for washing it).
Something they don’t tell you about before you get pregnant: leukorrhea. Look it up.
3. Prepare to compensate for loose ligaments.
Clumsiness, anyone? Along with that comes a Swiss-cheese brain (Who are you, again?).
4. Bring stretchy clothes for a trip longer than a few days.
That button-down shirt that fits this week may be gap central next week, especially early in your pregnancy.
5. Find out what your body may or may not do while flying.
Talk with your practitioner. I was surprised, at 11 weeks, when I cramped at takeoff and landing. I worried that I’d caused a miscarriage; I hadn’t.
6. Check the safety of screening measures used at security.
Most of them are considered safe during pregnancy, but if you have any doubts, you’re entitled to request a pat-down instead.
7. Carry a big water bottle.
And refill it whenever possible. If you don’t trust the local water, outdoor supply stores have compact, lightweight water purification systems that are airline-friendly.
8. Bring extra prenatal vitamins.
These are crucial in case of delays or cancellations.
9. Continue to do the other physical activities that bring you joy.
Running, hiking, snowshoeing, long walks, (prenatal) yoga, swimming…Your body is building a person, not afflicted with a disease. Exercise is really good for both it and your brain!