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traveling abroad while pregnant

Traveling Abroad while Pregnant: Firsthand Advice from a Pregnant Travel Addict

When I told people that I was planning to travel to a foreign country while 7 months pregnant, I got looked at like I was crazy.  The look turned into shock when they heard I was going to a developing country: Egypt.

“Is it safe to travel while pregnant?”

“Can you fly while pregnant?”

“What if something happens???”

There are some legit concerns about traveling abroad while pregnant – but those can easily be addressed by making some smart travel choices and precautions.

 

This is NOT Your Last Chance to Travel

Apparently, most people believe that their lives come to a screeching halt once they have a baby.  They have to travel “while they still can.”  There is even a name for these pregnancy holidays – a “babymoon.”

Fear that this is your “last chance to travel” is a terrible reason to plan a trip!!!

It is perfectly possible to travel with a baby.  In some ways, traveling with a baby is even more fun (such as how you get priority treatment and meet locals easier).  So don’t feel pressured to rush out and take a trip “while you still can.” There will be plenty of opportunities to travel later on.

traveling with a baby
In Bosnia when my first daughter was a baby

 

Get the Timing Right

I am one of those unlucky women who gets hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy.  Don’t confuse HG with morning sickness.  I’m talking about puking blood because the vomit has eroded your throat.  I’m talking about getting IV transfusions because I couldn’t keep water down…

So it was a bad mistake to go backpacking while 4 weeks pregnant. I ended up having to cut the trip short.  It’s no fun puking all over the trail!!!

But, because this was my second pregnancy, I knew that I would probably stop puking at 6 months. So that’s when I planned my Egypt trip for.

backpacking pregnant
I'm doing my best to keep up a smile, but I'm 4 weeks pregnant, just threw up my lunch, and still have a mountain to climb!

 

You don’t know how you’ll feel as pregnancy progresses, so here’s what I’d recommend about planning a trip abroad:

  • Go during months 6 or 7: In general, these are the best months for most pregnant women. The hormones and morning sickness have leveled off, but you aren’t so huge that you tire easily.
  • Wait until the last minute to plan your trip: If possible, hold off on planning your trip until you know how you feel.
  • Check refund policies: Most travel insurance policies don’t allow pregnancy as a reason for cancellation. So, be sure you understand cancellation/refund policies. Otherwise you’ll be out a lot of money if you decide to cancel the trip because you feel too crappy.

 

You Probably Can’t Get Travel Health Insurance while Pregnant

One of the biggest issues with traveling abroad while pregnant is that almost no travel insurance company will give coverage to pregnant women.

If something happens while on your trip, you’ll be stuck with the bill!

Consider the case of Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel and her “million dollar baby.” The Canadian couple were on vacation in the USA when Jennifer went into premature labor.  Two months in the ICU ran up a hospital bill of $950,000 – none of which was covered under her insurance policy!

I admit that the idea of being saddled with a huge hospital bill terrified me.  Before going to Egypt, I intensely researched the cost of giving birth there, as well as how much a night in ICU would cost.   Egypt is a poor country, so the costs weren’t too high – so I was willing to take the risk.

 

Know Airline Policies for Pregnant Women

flight restrictions during pregnancy

Flying while pregnant is perfectly safe. The real reason that airlines put restrictions on flying while pregnant is because they are afraid you will give birth in the air.

Thus, a lot of airlines won’t let pregnant women fly after 36 weeks (or 32 weeks if you are having multiples).  You may need a doctor’s note before being allowed to fly.  This was the case with Air Cairo.  The note had to be no more than 7 days old, so I actually had to visit a gynecologist while in Egypt – which was actually a cool part of the trip.

You can find a good breakdown on airline pregnancy restrictions here.

 

Choose the Right Climate

Since you are already going abroad, you might as well choose an agreeable climate!  The entire reason we chose Egypt for our trip was because it was January.

While everyone else was battling snow, we were swimming in the Red Sea!

However, there is no way in hell that I’d go to Egypt in summer while pregnant.  For a summer trip, I would have chosen a cooler country like Norway or gone into the mountains.

pregnancy travel to Egypt
It is JANUARY in this photo, but I'm enjoying lots of sunshine and vitamin D!

 

Only Plan ONE Activity Per Day

In general, I’m not the type of traveler who tries to see/do a zillion things.  But I knew to take it even easier while pregnant.

I made a list of the things I absolutely wanted to do in each destination.  Then planned to do just one per day.  Some days we managed to do more than one thing, but only if I still felt up to it. This kept the pace relaxed so I didn't inadvertently overexert myself.

 

Consider the Bathroom Situation

One piece of travel advice for pregnant women which commonly gets overlooked is the bathroom situation.   Since pregnancy makes you pee like crazy, this is not something which should not be overlooked.

Going to the bathroom actually ended up being the hardest part of traveling abroad while pregnant.  After this ordeal, here’s what I’d recommend to other pregnant travelers:

  • Make sure you can squat: Public bathrooms aren’t exactly known for their cleanliness – do you really want to sit on them? If you can’t squat over them, you are going to be in for some trouble. Squats are great exercises for preparing for childbirth anyway. 😉
  • Consider a pee funnel: If you can’t squat, then get a pee funnel. This makes it possible to pee standing up.
  • Map out some nicer restaurants: As is the case in many developing countries, it was very hard to find a bathroom in Egypt. The local restaurants didn’t have bathrooms (seriously!) and cafes usually only had a bathroom for men (which might just be a bucket in a corner!!!).  The tourist restaurants consistently had nice bathrooms, so I mapped these out so I knew where to go to pee.
  • Carry TONS of wet wipes and antiseptic gel: Once you have a baby, you’ll be carrying tons of these anyway. 🙂 For traveling abroad, these come in handy for wiping down disgusting surfaces and sanitizing your hands – don’t expect soap in every bathroom!
squat toilet pregnancy
This is actually clean for a public toilet!

 

Budget for Luxury Transportation

Normally I’m fine taking cramped minibuses and crowded trains.  But, at 7 months pregnant, I wasn’t keen about shoving into Egypt’s crowded local transportation.

It probably would have ended with me puking or passing out. Or, worse, someone banging into my stomach.

Luckily we were able to afford taxis everywhere (we used Uber to avoid haggling with the crooked taxi drivers).   We took things a step further and even hired a private driver to take us between cities.

Since it was Egypt (and not, for example, Norway), it wasn’t too expensive.  In developed countries, this sort of luxury travel will definitely cost more.

Even a short taxi ride each day in somewhere like Europe can add a huge amount to your travel budget. But in developed countries the public transportation won’t be as crazy.  So really think about the cost vs. hassle of public transport and budget your trip accordingly.

travel transportation while pregnant
Traveling in comfort with a private driver!

 

Some Activities Will Be Off-Limits While Traveling Pregnant

In the weeks before my Egypt trip, I was Googling things like “Can you ride a camel while pregnant?”

It turns out that riding a camel is a relatively safe activity while pregnant (riding a horse, however, is not).  But, to play it safe, I still decided not to ride a camel while at the pyramids.

I also had to pass on sandboarding, quad biking, and going into certain tombs (because of low oxygen levels inside).  Unfortunately, it was only after I got into a jeep on our excursion into the desert that I realized that off-roading might be off-limits too! Luckily, the ride wasn't too bumpy — but I still held on tightly to prevent my stomach from getting bounced too much.

riding a camel while pregnant
I skipped riding a camel because of my pregnancy bump!

 

Playing It Safe with Food while Pregnant

Another major concern I had about traveling to Egypt (or any developing country) while pregnant was getting a stomach bug from tainted water or food.

Most of the time, food poisoning while pregnant isn’t particularly danger.  The biggest risk is that you’ll get dehydrated.

The best thing to do is avoid food poisoning in the first place:

  • Only drink safe water. I stuck to bottled water. I also have a Sawyer Mini water filter in case bottled water isn’t available.
  • Remember to avoid ice cubes and juices too! Unless you know these were made with safe water, don’t drink them.
  • Be cautious about street food. My doctor told me to not eat any street food. But that’s half the fun of traveling abroad! So I instead was careful about the street food I ate.  I stuck with thing that were deep fried since this would have killed most bacteria. I’m vegetarian, but would have avoided all street meat regardless.
  • Take probiotics the first few days. This will help your body adjust to and combat any “bad” bacteria it comes in contact with.

In case you do develop a stomach bug, the CDC says it is best to wait for it to go away on its own (if it’s severe, that’s when you’ll want to contact a doctor).  You’ll need to stay hydrated while waiting for the diarrhea and vomiting to subside.

My traveler’s first aid kit is always stockpiled with electrolytes.  It also has activated charcoal and other remedies for food poisoning.

food poisoning while pregnant
Oops! I probably shouldn't have drank this pineapple juice from a street vender! 😮

 

Enjoy the Memories

Taking a trip while I was 7 months pregnant was by far the best decision I made – for both me and my family.

It was a much-needed break from all the pregnancy woes. For the first time in months, I stopped frantically Googling everything pregnancy related. I was able to RELAX and enjoy myself!

Even more importantly, I was able to spend some quality time with my husband and older daughter.

If I had a high-risk pregnancy, then I wouldn’t have done the trip.  But for any other pregnant travel addicts who need a break from focusing on their growing baby, a trip is great for your mental health.

My only regret is that I didn’t take more photos using my bump.  It would have been great to have a funny picture of my belly with a pyramid coming out of it. 🙂

traveling abroad while 7 months pregnant

Have you traveled abroad while pregnant? What tips would you add?

Image credit: squat toilet, by Maksym KozlenkoCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

 

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