When you’re stuck in the endless freeze of winter in Canada, your thoughts inevitably turn to a vacation in the tropics. Each year, we escape sometime between the months of January and March, and as a family have travelled to Polynesia, New Zealand, Bermuda, Belize and Hawaii when the snow is flying back home.
This year, however, we were expecting baby #2, and our only availability for a trip would take me abroad after the 30-week mark in pregnancy. The second trimester would have been ideal, with the increase in energy and good mobility (without a big belly in the way or leg swelling to worry about) and a decrease of morning sickness and other first trimester ailments. Still, we made it work, departing for Kaua’i around 29 weeks, and returning by the end of my 32nd week. We had an amazing time, especially embracing our last trip as a family of three.
When you’re travelling while you’re pregnant you’ll no doubt feel some discomfort, but here are my best tips for your trip so that you can have some peace of mind and enjoy yourself. They are suitable for any trimester!
Before You Leave
1/ Bring Your Pre-Natal Record
Before you leave, have your doctor print off your most recent prenatal record. This will come in handy if you need to seek out any medical assistance while you’re travelling. It will also prove your potential due date, which may be helpful if you face any difficulties with airlines claiming you’re trying to travel too late in your pregnancy (36 weeks seems to be the general cut-off). Some women look more pregnant than others (like me), so it’s nice to have more paperwork on-hand.
2/ Triple Check Your Insurance
No one wants a million dollar baby (and that’s not just a rumour). Without adequate insurance, you could face a huge hospital bill if you go into pre-term labour and if you require additional care after the baby is born abroad. Most insurance companies only offer insurance for the mother until the end of her 31st week (or 9 weeks from due date). Many do not cover the baby, only the mother, so you’re still facing a risk if the baby requires additional care (and if you’re travelling before 36 weeks, it’s likely the baby will need some extra TLC).
I originally purchased insurance through RBC Travel Insurance, where we normally purchase it, only to discover I would have a week on Kaua’i without any coverage (and that the baby wouldn’t be covered). Thankfully, Alberta Blue Cross covers mothers until the end of their 32nd week (I arrived home on exactly that day), and they cover the baby, too. Whew.
Be mindful, too, about any “preconditions” that may impact your insurance claim. You need to have a clean record prior to departing, which means no new medications or antibiotics relating to your pregnancy (such as treatment for a UTI).
You’ll most likely go through your trip without incident, but you don’t want to be caught without adequate insurance.
3/ Look Up Local Medical Care
Look up the local clinic and emergency care in advance so you’re not scrambling if anything worries you once you land. I kept a note of the address of any local maternity services and which hospital was closest in the event of an emergency. Of course, no one hopes for that, but it’s best to be prepared.
4/ Bring Your Pre-Natal Vitamins
Bring any vitamins and supplements you require during your pregnancy so that you don’t need to find some once you arrive. I took just enough for the duration of the trip.
In the Air and Once There
5/ Compression Socks
This is key in any trimester where you’re facing an increase in swelling in your legs, feet and ankles (especially in the third trimester). Try to put them on before the swelling starts. That might mean putting them on before you even get out of bed, before your flight. I don’t know what I would have done without them!
6/ Elevate Your Feet and Stretch Your Legs
Do this as much as possible. While you’re travelling that might mean stretching and putting your feet up while you wait at your gate or placing your feet on your partner’s lap during the flight. I noticed an empty row at the back of the plane where the staff sit when they aren’t servicing people on the flight, and kindly requested to sit there with my legs up for 10 minutes. Only one stewardess was miffed at me, but my sanity was more important. 🙂 I also used the area outside the washroom when it wasn’t busy with staff to stretch out my legs (a kind steward topped my water bottle a few times while I was there, too).
Once you’re at your destination, you’ll be on your feet exploring. Take time to put your feet up during the day and in the evenings. Plan an evening stretch before bed.
7/ Walk, Walk, Walk
But not too much. On the plane, I walked every half an hour (even during the overnight flight back home!) This prevented too much stiffness in my body and pooling of blood in my feet. Otherwise, walking was a great way for me to explore my destination, since I couldn’t partake in other activities I normally would. I found if I overdid it, though, I dealt with terrible restless legs at night.
8/ Drink Lots of Water
On the plane and at your destination: drink, drink, drink. Drinking water actually helps reduce swelling (even if it means getting up more often to use the washroom). If you’re visiting a hot climate, you need to be extra mindful of staying hydrated. Always carry a water bottle so you aren’t relying on finding water along the way.
9/ Adjust Your Travel Style
Our family travel style is generally “go big or go home.” We like to make the most of things and spend our days out exploring. But I had a few days on Kaua’i where I knew I pushed a bit too much – especially big days in the car. Too much sitting made me feel awful, and I paid for it with restless legs at night. Plan your outings and adventures, but plan your downtime, too. Bring some comfort items if it’ll mean greater enjoyment (I brought along a foldable camp chair for sitting on the beach, for instance.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. It’s worth feeling a bit high maintenance to make your trip more enjoyable. If more pillows or a bedroom fan will make you more comfortable, ask your hosts or hotel staff. Remember, you’re a paying customer!
10/ Be Mindful of Food Standards
When you’re eating out, don’t assume a server will do what you say when you order your food. Be firm about how you want your eggs or fish cooked, for instance, and send it back if it’s too raw. Also, you might be comfortable with certain foods at home, but when you’re travelling you may not know how a meal is prepared, cooked or what’s really in it. Just be a bit more cautious so that you can avoid any infections or bacteria.
Have you ever travelled abroad when you’re pregnant? What tips would you add to the list?