Venturing abroad can mean you're literally living the dream of travelling throughout some of the world's most beautiful and culturally rich destinations, and huge numbers of people choose to embark on their own personal adventure each year. But what happens if you're pregnant? Can you still go?
Firstly, it's important that we stress that backpacking whilst pregnant isn't impossible, nor is it particularly stressful, as some might think - all you need is a little research. Pregnancy shouldn't stop you from doing the things you loved before you fell pregnant, you just need to apply a little extra care and thought.
Find a travel insurance company which insures women which are pregnant - Alpha Travel Insurance insures for medical expenses cover for pregnancy and childbirth from weeks 0 to week 28 whilst you are away, and includes cover for complications such as toxemia, gestational hypertension, retained placenta membrane and lots of other things that can go wrong, later on.
The one thing that will be playing on your mind is keeping not only you, but your baby safe, so having travel insurance that covers you for all of the essentials will help keep your mind at peace whilst you're travelling from country to country.
Whilst it's important to stay safe whilst you're backpacking with your bump, it's also a good idea to not let your pregnancy hold you back. Make sure you aren't over-cautious and stop yourself participating in things which you always hoped on doing during your travels - baby or no baby.
When women who are active find out they are pregnant, one of the first things they do is find out what they can and cannot continue to do. The truth is - as your pregnancy progresses you'll be able to do less, and any activity that increases the chances of trauma to yourself of your abdomen should be strictly avoided from the beginning. Gynaecologists also advise against activities at altitudes over 6,000 feet, as this means less oxygen is available to you and your baby, and research is conflicting about what pregnant women can do when they raise their heart rate whilst carrying a child, but research thoroughly what you intend on doing on your trip, and consult your GP to ensure you are safe.
Be prepared for an emergency
Have a good emergency plan in place for your trip. Make sure you research your destinations thoroughly - know where the nearest hospital is and if you're planning on visiting places off of the beaten track, make sure that you know where nearest 'civilisations' are so you can get help should you need it. If you are at risk of labour, or are more than 35 weeks pregnant, doctors generally advise that you don't visit anywhere which is considered remote as help is less readily available. Always take your mobile phone.
Check your backpack
Having a backpack which is too heavy is a way for your body and your baby to ask for trouble. Make sure your pack doesn't weigh any more than 8kg (17.6lbs, and only if you're used to backpacking). For those not used to the idea of carrying your worldly belongings on your back, make sure your pack weight doesn't exceed 4kg (10lbs). If you need extra things, make sure you ask someone you are travelling with (who isn't pregnant!) to carry the extra weight - it's better for someone else to bear a little more on their shoulders than to risk problems with your pregnancy and baby.
Vaccinations are important for regular backpackers, but especially important for pregnant women to pay attention to. The NHS advise against visiting locations where you might need vaccinations in order to travel, especially as most of the diseases that the jabs are designed to protect against, actually contain some of the disease itself (live vaccines). These include: BCG (against tuberculosis), MMR (against mumps, measles and rubella), oral polio, oral typhoid and yellow fever.
When backpacking it may not always be possible to avoid the destinations which require vaccinations whilst you are pregnant. In this case, speak to your doctor, consultant or GP and find out the risks and benefits of any vaccinations you require. If you intend on visiting a country where there is a high risk of the disease, it can often be safer for you to have the vaccine containing the live disease rather than risk travelling unprotected - most of the dangerous diseases will be more harmful to your baby than a vaccine is.
Pregnant women in particular are susceptible to malaria, and the condition can be seriously fatal for both mother and child if caught. Malaria affects countries including: Africa, South America and Central America, Asia and the Middle East. If at all possible, it is advised that you do not travel to these countries whilst pregnant. However, if you are unable to postpone or cancel your backpacking trip, preventative treatment is also available, but this depends on the stage of pregnancy you have reached.
Diet and water
Travelling can leave anyone dehydrated, but if you're backpacking whilst pregnant you need to be more conscious about your hydration than you might normally be. Drink lots of water, and make sure you're careful about the water's origin (some water may be treated, but treated with iodine, with can be dangerous in certain intakes whilst pregnant, so most people favour special filters or boiling the water first). Too much water can also be just as bad as too little, just make sure you stay hydrated - don't over-do it.
Try to not get stuck into the backpacker cycle of eating crap food because it's cheap and readily available. Although this might be tempting, it won't do you or the baby any nutritional good.
Pregnant women burn around 300 extra calories a day and hiking around or backpacking will up that number of calories by even further. Don't forget to pack any pre-natal vitamins, as these can supply you with extra goodness throughout your trip that you might not otherwise get in the foods you eat whilst you're away.
Doctors tend to recommend eating lots of almonds, cashews and even pumpkin seeds - all of which contain DHA, a fatty acid ideal for mother and baby growth. They also say to avoid high citrus snacks. You should opt for snacks which are high in calcium and folic acid or cranberries, which keep your bladder healthy.
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