My job involves international travel about once a quarter. In addition, my husband and I are humans who enjoy traveling, so we often to choose to take trips that involve flying. So it is no surprise that over my 40 weeks of pregnancy, I flew several times. I went to Canada for 3 days (work, solo) at about week 9, Australia for 13 days (work, solo) at weeks 18–20, and Colorado for 7 days (vacation, with my husband) at week 26. Travel while pregnant isn’t the same as while not pregnant, but if approached thoughtfully, it’s very feasible, and can in fact be perfectly sane and enjoyable. I loved my trip to Australia, and I’m so glad I didn’t say no to that opportunity simply because I was pregnant.
Here’s how I approached it:
Own being pregnant. I have found people are very helpful and kind to pregnant ladies. So I asked for help, often. I wasn’t a jerk and didn’t presume I could do whatever I wanted. But I also didn’t choose it as the time to be ‘stoic’ and gut it out.
An elderly man on one of my flights struck up a conversation with me, and towards the end of the flight offered for me to be his guest in the airline lounge so I could rest during my layover. I absolutely took him up on the offer. On long flights, I tried to get a row to myself so I could put my feet up/lay down. I let other people load my bag wherever it needed to go, whenever anyone offered. I asked for extra snacks on flights. Generally even the cold-hearted stingy airlines in the US were helpful.
Pack minimally. If I could help it in any way, I traveled only with a carry on bag, and took as absolutely little as I could. Trekking on and off a bunch of flights, especially since I was alone for much of my work travel, I didn’t want to have to wait in line to check bags or lug any extra weight. Extra tip: You can fit more in a suitcase if you roll each item rather than fold it.
Bring snacks. Clif bars, fruit leather, nuts, and granola (added to yogurt I bought along the way) are my go-tos. Traveling at odd hours and being in meetings, it’s sometimes hard to get snacks on the go, and/or get super timely meals. Which is a must while pregnant. So it was less stressful if I know I had a few things with protein that were in my control when to eat.
Drink loads of water. Think 4–6 ounces per hour of flying time (which is ~100 ounces if you’re going East Coast US to Sydney). It helps a ton — dehydration is crazy on planes. And it also forced me to get up to use the bathroom a lot, which is great for blood flow. And every time I got up to use the bathroom, I walked the full length of the plane and did some stretches (calf raises, quad stretches, etc).
Other helpful things to consider when flying- you can take a baby aspirin before getting on a long flight, take Unisom for sleeping, which you’re allowed to take in pregnancy (and is great for nausea as well), and use compression socks.
Support your immune system. I took zinc once a day for a few days before I left to build up immunity, as well as Emergen-C type supplements. I bought the ones that are big tablets that dissolve in water, since they’re easy to pack. And I continued to take one a day as I traveled. All the flying and new places, it’s so easy to catch a cold, but it’s also easy to get nauseous with too many vitamins/supplements in pill form, so the dissolvable ones are great (though I did have a few zinc tablets with me, too).
Get a massage. After a long flight, this is good for anyone, but especially for a pregnant woman. At first I resisted, but after a few days in Aus, I realized I was super tight. I chose to pay for this out of my own pocket, it was not something my company paid for. I found a place that knew how to do prenatal massage, and it was worth every penny.
Rest rest rest. I took extra opportunities to rest, and didn’t try to squeeze every piece of exploration out of both the personal and work trips I took while pregnant. I tried to be mindful not to push myself as I might otherwise on a big international adventure. It’s wonderful to explore and see sites when you have time on work travel, but it’s extra important to sleep well, take naps, and sometimes just rest. Again, sanity and health are the goals. But I also fought to get exercise when I could so I could keep the blood flowing — even 10–15 minutes on an elliptical or treadmill in the mornings helped.
To be fair, these are reasonable tips for staying healthy and sane on lengthy international travel in general. But I think they’re all the more important when you’re pregnant. And like I said, it takes a bit of thought and prep, but I found it worth it.
If you have taken trips — short or long, by plane or by car — while pregnant, what are some of your tricks and tips for making it more manageable?