Pregnancy travel can be many things from mandatory work trips to exotic babymoons. The one thing that is certain is that in today’s world, travel can take it out of you and pregnancy travel has the potential to be even harder. To help make it easier, I’ve compiled my top tips that I utilized to make it just a little bit easier.
When I learned I was pregnant I knew that I would have some travel – including long haul flights- in my future and I wasn’t exactly sure how it would impact me. I googled lots of tips and “expert” advice and it all seemed just a little too general and didn’t really help me figure out how and what I should adapt as I traveled. I was lucky to have a healthy pregnancy but even a healthy pregnancy can leave any mama-to-be feeling rough; add work travel and jet-lag into the mix and it can get even rougher.
During my pregnancy I flew
- Baltimore – Chicago- Shanghai
- Baltimore – Austin
- Dallas – Shanghai
- Shanghai – Seoul x 2
While it wasn’t a crazy amount of travel, it did include a few long hauls and the added complexity of international travel.
Skip the Lines (or at least try to)
In Asia it is more common for airports to have a “Pregnant Mothers” lines for security and immigration which is a wonderful thing and makes the whole experience a bit easier. Additionally, they are familiar with the request to have a pat down (vs going through the security machine) Every time I traveled I would ask if there were a pregnant travelers “special” line and if it were closed, I would ask them to open it up for me – it worked every time! Additionally, some Asian carriers (thank you Korean Air ) allow you to have priority boarding, I was all about avoiding standing in lines during pregnancy. When in the US I leveraged my Global Entry and also asked agents to let me go to the front of the line. When you’ve been on a plane for 15 hours and just want to get home, there is no harm in politely asking as the worst scenario is that they will say “No”
Ask for Help (remember you’re pregnant!)
This is easier said than done – I was pretty more born a “I can do it myself” kind of lady and receiving help, let alone asking for it doesn’t always come naturally to me -even when pregnant and traveling. So during pregnancy I tried to remind myself that it’s totally OK to ask for help (a good precursor to parenting) and I tried to practice this in big ways and in small ways. On flights, I would tell the flight attendant I was pregnant and ask for a large bottle of water, I was never refused and it actually meant that the flight attendant checked on me more than normal and was quite nice (double desserts!). Once I was visibly pregnant, I had both men & women offering to put my carry-on in the overhead bin so I didn’t even have the opportunity to ask for help.
Now while I would like to believe that the whole world is kind to pregnant women, that’s just not the case and sometimes the asks for help go unanswered. My return leg of Shanghai- Baltimore trip was super delayed and I missed my connection in Chicago – I had zero status on the American carrier that I was flying and told them my situation and asked for help and I got nothing. Just a “there are many displaced passengers” type of response. So, it may not always work out when you ask for help, but more often than not it will.
Have Your Pregnancy Paperwork in Order
I would imagine that every airline/pilot/flight attendant’s nightmare is having a baby born mid-flight and obviously this is not a situation that i wanted to be in either. I only had 1 flight scheduled during my third trimester and I did all the due diligence to ensure I had all the paperwork my airline required. Each airline seems to have its own pregnancy travel protocols and restrictions, but most are around the common theme of needing a letter from a physician and not traveling after a certain number of weeks. No one even asked to see my travel documents, but it felt better knowing that I was ready and that they couldn’t turn me away at the Gate. The burden to prep all the paperwork is on you so be sure to carefully read each airline’s policy so you are prepared and well-informed so you can advocate for yourself if need be.
Make Yourself the #1 Priority during Pregnancy Travel
When I flew to China in my first trimester for onboarding to my new role I knew that my Geneva-based colleague was also flying in so that we could ensure a smooth transition. I wanted to make the most of our time together and given our respective jet-lags and early wakeups, I suggested that we begin our connections earlier in the day when we were both fresher and feeling more alert. This approach then allowed me to leave the office at 3 PM and ensure that I could get a little sunshine and exercise followed by an early dinner and early bedtime. This made it possible for me to manage both my workload and pregnancy + travel induced jet lag.
Pregnancy travel can be even harder when you are managing bizarre hunger patterns and food aversions- so I was sure to pack ALL THE SNACKS for my travel and trips. I wanted to know that no matter what curve ball came my way I could at least eat something that wouldn’t make me feel sick. I didn’t want to have to rely on a Mini-Bar Snickers or room service and packed some instant oatmeal packets and other easy-to-digest snacks. I also kept to a vegetarian diet (an easy cover in early pregnancy) while traveling and that kept colleagues from recommending a sushi lunch!
The biggest learning I had during all my travel was to be kind to myself and not push it too hard. It’s OK to be tired and take a rest; it’s NOT ok to push yourself beyond your limit. Listen to your body, be kind to yourself and let other people be kind to you. One of the fun parts of being visibly pregnant and traveling is that you get lots of smiles and help, embrace it and know that someday you can pay this type of kindness forward too.