Thursday, 01 October 2009
This guide on pregnant backpacking was born out of my notes while traveling pregnant through South America. Before I set out I googled for advice on travelling while pregnant, and all I could find was health warnings. So I decided to write my own tips, based on the experiences I made as well the excellent advice of my midwife.
Disclaimer: I am not encouraging pregnant ladies to risk their or their babies' health through irresponsible traveling. However, for the pregnant women that do chose to travel, there is very little information available online. This is my attempt to fill that gap by providing them tips and information that could make their trip easier.
Pregnant on Titicaca:
In the 7th month of pregnancy, we (my huge belly, 2-year-old Pequenita and my husband) traveled for a week overland from Lima, Peru to Cochabamba, Bolivia. This was not just one of the best trips of my life, it was the best part of my pregnancy.
I had an very healthy pregnancy, and surprisingly, no back-pain this time around. I attribute the energy I had to my high-raw diet. The only small complication I had was low blood-pressure, but because of it I was advised to keep moving around. I love backpacking, and made some hardcore travels since I was a kid. No way I would stay home when my husband traveled to my dream destination !
On the trip I had way more energy than at home, and I loved every minute of it. Bonuses of being pregnant: the Cholita ladies all predicting I would have a boy (they were right), being fed extra portions of fruit smoothes, suprised smiles of other tourists... the nastiest part was a nightlong ride on an amazingly comfortable bus... with no toilet !
To travel or not to travel ?
In my opinion you should think of backpacking only if your answers to these questions is 'yes'.
Are you going through a healthy pregnancy, without complications ? Did your previous pregnancy (if any) go well ?
Do you like traveling ? Does it make you happy ?
Have you backpacked before ? If not, this might not be a good time for a first attempt.
Do you have back pain ? If your back hurts a lot, traveling will not be fun !
Can you go together with someone ? Remember, you won't be able to carry much, so you'll probably need a travel companion. Choose someone understanding who won't get upset about carrying more stuff, or you deciding to stay in the hotel for the afternoon instead of going out.
When to travel:
Second trimester, definitively. During the first trimester you'll be busy sleeping and throwing up. In the third, you'll be too big to be comfortable. Most women feel wonderfully energetic in their second trimester. Also, as my doctor told me, at that time the baby's organs more developed, making it less dependant upon whatever the mother is going through.
Where to go:
If you've never been in a third-world country, this might not be a good time for a first !
Remember that you can't take medications or vaccinations, so choose somewhere healthy. Check with a travel doctor or the internet about warnings of current epidemics. I avoided the tropical parts of Bolivia where Dengue was raging, and stayed in the higher altitudes.
Don't choose a strenuous location. I was in Peru and Bolivia, which had pretty comfortable buses and no extreme climate (at least where I went). There were interesting excursions and trekking if I choose to do them, but there was enough interesting stuff in the cities that didn't require energy.
What to take:
Pack very very lightly. This is extremely important. Not only it's not good for you to carry anything heavy, you probably won't be able to it anyway. Remember that you don't be able to close the hip-strap around your back. Pack clothes that you could leave behind if you don't need them. Take the absolute minimum you can. Don't buy heavy souvenirs. Ask your travel partner to carry a bit of your stuff.
Buy stuff on the spot. Actually the only thing you'll need from home is good pregnancy trousers. The rest can be bought everywhere: shirts, socks, jackets, shampoo, razors, whatever.
Compression stockings. These are absolutely amazing in flights and bus rides. They compress the leg slightly, not letting all the blood stay down: they prevent swollen ankles and varicose veins, and they feel really good too. Even though I am an expert in sleeping in buses with my feel up in Yoga positions, I really loved my compression socks. They can be bought over the counter in pharmacies, and f you do have problems with swelling ankles or varicose veins, your doctor might get your insurance to pay to them (in Europe, with our "communistic" health system.)
Belly-belt (maternity support belt): some women swear by this. There are two kinds, the soft ones just keep the belly from wobbling around too much, the broader, stiffer ones support the back. Look for them on Amazon.
Comfortable shoes. This is really very important for your back !
- Gymnastic slippers. You want to keep your feet up and be comfortable in a bus, but in many countries they don't let you take off your shoes in buses (hello Spain and Argentina). Actually, with your newly sensitive sense of smell, you might not want to either. Gymnastic slippers are also great for running around in hotel rooms, and your tired feet will thank you !
Homeopathic & herbal medicaments: my midwife gave me a nice list of stuff I could take in case of fever, diahorrea, etc. Find a homeopathic doctor to do this for you, and check whether you need to take the medicines with you or you can buy them on the spot. Try to avoid antibiotics !
How to survive backpacking when pregnant:
Learn to keep your feet up while sitting: lotus position, tailor-seat, kneeling, whatever works for you. This will prevent swollen ankles, thrombosis veins and fatigue.
When you stand, keep your feet apart and bend your knees slightly. This relieves your back.
Don't keep your travel plans too rigid. It's possible that you'll be more tired than you expected, and you'll want to skip some things. Not feeling up to hiking ? Visit a museum instead. It can also be the other way round, I surprised myself by having the energy to trek at 4000 mts heights at the Isla del Sol.
Eat healthy. Yes, the baby makes you ravenous, but believe me, the baby doesn't really want a hamburger. Eat at least one salad daily, snack on fruits !
Drink a lot. Water, I mean. With all the inconveniences with toilets while traveling, many women avoid drinking much. It's really important to stay hydrated during pregnancy, so don't forget your water bottle, and go behind the bushes if you have to !
Sit on the aisle side in buses and planes, unless you want to annoy the hell out of the person sitting next to you by bumping into his knees on your frequent trips to the toilet.
The key to a Bonne Journee for pregnant backpackers would be: pack light, always pee when you get the chance, and eat food that will make you feel good afterwards. If I had to give just one piece of advice, it would be: pack light !!!!*** Watch this space for advice on backpacking with a toddler ! ***
Have you ever traveled while pregnant ? What advice would you give to other pregnant travelers ?
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