Whether you are pregnant and ‘have to’ travel, or are pregnant but can’t help hitting the road, let me tell you, you can do it; almost always. Just do it right.
Being in-the-family-way doesn’t have to mean ‘no travel.’ It’s just that you have to keep in mind the situation, take a little extra care and not do anything that will jeopardize the pregnancy.
When I was pregnant for the first time, I was a apprehensive of travel. Barring a drive to Sacramento (from San Jose) I believe we did only a few short drives and day trips. The second time around, we were felt much braver and found ourselves doing some long distance travel, even driving through 3 states in a day. That meant over 900 miles and it all fared pretty well.
The Road Rules
How to road trip while pregnant —
1. Get your OB-GYN’s ‘Ok’
Your health is important. So is that of the little human being inside you. If you are doing pretty well as the days go by, chances are you can do some travelling, provided you take good care of yourself, pay attention to what your body is telling you and don’t do anything that will drain your system. Note: each pregnancy is different so you might want to talk to your Obstetrician-Gynecologist before you go on that road trip while pregnant. And she/he will tell you how far you can go and what needs to be taken care of, depending on how you have been doing along the way.
2. Be trimester-conscious
If you are travelling when you are in your first trimester, you might want to take extra care. Check out the conditions of the road you will be taking. You might want to avoid bumpy rides around this time. Now first trimester might also mean morning sickness and aversion to food and all that.
Now if you have morning sickness, or your nausea plans to stick with you even though the first trimester is behind you, you might want to consider starting your day with Saltine Crackers or try using acupressure wrist bands* that arrest the nausea.
I waited to do long distances only after my first three months were done. But while those unpleasant days were still around, I did decide to ignore it all and go exploring local places. That way I had other things to think about than just about those funny sensations in the pit of my stomach. And believe me, I was a happier spending my days outside, with scenic roadsides, beaches and architectural marvels keeping me distracted from the unpleasant parts of the first trimester.
These three months are supposed to be the best time for travel. That’s what most people who’ve been there will tell you. You’ll be more at ease with your status and most probably the morning sickness will be in your past. My doc called this the ‘honeymoon phase’ of pregnancy. So just have fun without forgetting to take care of your pregnant self.
This is when you have to be prepared for the aches and pains and the false contractions. Drink lots of water (more in point-4). Try not to travel far as you approach D-Day and make sure to listen to your body, very carefully. Look for all the signs that your doctor asked you to watch out for. Be aware of the hospitals in the area you are travelling to.
You could even carry your hospital bag.
When I was in the 3rd trimester of my 2nd pregnancy, I tried not to venture too far especially because it was a high -risk pregnancy. And that meant I could not check into just about any hospital when labour pains called on me as there was a team ready with a list of things to do as soon as the baby arrived. Since each one’s pregnancy is different you might want to draw up a travel plan and an emergency plan that’s right for you.
3. Buckle up right
When you are on the road, remember your seat belt is still very important. In fact more important than ever. Have no doubts — it IS safe for you to use those seat belts.
My (CA) driver’s handbook — I remember — says that the shoulder belt should go across your chest and the lap part pf the belt, below that baby bump [Note: not above the belly or on the bump].
4. Drink lots of water:
Don’t ever forget to carry water. You have to keep yourself hydrated. And if you are in the last trimester, remember dehydration could trigger cramps and premature contractions. You don’t want that ruining the trip/ drive.
5. Take some breaks along the way
If you are going on a long road trip, you could throw in a break every now and then. There’s nothing like stretching yourself from time to time.
I remember, just as I was about to go on a long drive, I had a friend’s family over for dinner. And her mother who is a doctor told hubby, “This time it is not about you even if you are the one who is going to be doing all the driving. This time it is about her. Stop every couple of hours and take a half hour break.”
And that we did. We made stops at rest areas along the highway and I did some walking around. And that did me a world of good.
The first time we had to do over 900 miles, we broke the journey into two. We decided to stop at a ‘place of interest’ midway. We did some exploring at a (Volcanic) National Park, spent the night close by and then embarked on the remaining journey the next day.
6. Restroom reminders
If you are in the latter half of the pregnancy, nobody will have to remind you about the breaks. With the baby’s weight on your urinary bladder, the little one will be prodding you to go take a leak every now and then.
Now if you are on a long drive, you might want to keep an eye on the boards that tell you where the next rest area is. We kept an eye on that and if we saw that we had to go through a whole mountain pass before we got to the next one, I’d make sure to hit the loo and only then settle in for the next long leg of the drive.
Remember that you are on a road trip while pregnant. Carrying some just-in-case sanitary pads is not bad idea at all. Wearing one would be even better, just to be on the safe side.
7. Beware of germs
It is “okay” to let a little germaphobia get the better of you at this point. Use those disposable seat covers in public toilets. You could even carry your own.
Don’t forget to sanitize hands after the bathroom breaks. The restrooms you trip to may or many not have hand soap. So make sure you’ve refilled your pocket-hand sanitizer.
8. One step-stool for the road
If your fingers and toes are prone to swelling, you might want to carry a step stool so as to keep those feet elevated. I did not have that problem but I carried one, just in case it happened on a long trip. After a good part of one long drive, I did try resting my feet on it and I must say, it felt more relaxed than it was when my feet were all the way down.
9. Have your own ‘back’
Carrying some toss pillows is a great idea. It just might turn out handy if you get one of those lower back pains that love visiting you while you have a bun (or two) in-the-oven. If your backaches are bad, you could try the massage pillows/lumbar pillows (for this again, you might want to check with your doctor if it is okay to use them.)
Much later along in the pregnancy, I was beginning to get sore from a long drive and trust me the seat warmer took care of the pain. If you have that option in your car, you might want to use it, or else you could buy a hot water bag for some relief from the pains.
10. Prepare for the worst
Don’t forget to make sure you have your doctor’s phone number saved on your cell phone, as well as that of your partner or the friend who will be travelling with you. Double-check your wallet to make sure you are carrying your cards and insurance information.
And it won’t hurt to carry your hospital bag.
A pregnancy massages / Prenatal massage after a long road trip (or a short one) might be something you might want to consider. Your body is sure to thank you for it.
Once again, let me tell you — if all is well and your doctor hasn’t barred you from travel, you don’t have to stop yourself from tripping. Go on a babymoon or just go hang out and enjoy your carefree time before baby comes. Those first few weeks are going to be about sleepless nights and messed up schedules and trips to the doctor and all of that. Go pamper yourself before that.
Hey– and don’t forget to carry your multivitamins. 🙂
Happy road tripping!
[Once baby is home and you have settled into a new routine, you can hit the road again. I did just that. It turned out that we did a lot of moving around when our baby no. 2 was very little. It’s not too difficult, honest. I have a few tricks and tips up my sleeve. I’m going to spill it all in a post, soon.]