The Pregnant OB Part 4: Baby on board, will travel
First-time patients ask about my last name a lot. They don't expect a Caucasian to walk through the door when they’ve made an appointment to see “Dr. Chen.”
I laugh and tell them it's my husband's fault.
My husband was born in Taiwan. Most of his family still lives there and we try to visit once a year.
This year, we timed our trip to coincide with Chinese New Year. Everyone in Taiwan gathers on this day, also known as Lunar New Year, so it seemed like it would be equivalent to going home for Christmas.
Of course, I’m now 19 weeks pregnant. The second trimester is usually the most comfortable, so the timing of our last big trip together before kids also made sense personally.
The nausea hopefully would be resolved and I wouldn't be so big (yet!) that I'd be waddling around exhausted.
The experience brought some challenges, however. Here are some things I learned while traveling pregnant in Asia.
With a baby on board, it’s super interesting to look into the unique pregnancy practices of the local culture you’re immersed in.
For instance, I found out Taiwan has special hotels that women can check into immediately after delivery — and they can stay for 30 days!
The hotels are fully serviced, providing spas, massage, childcare, medical care and exercise rooms. It’s a modern twist on an ancient practice known as “confinement.”
It seems like a great idea to me! I may just ask my husband to fly me back to Taiwan immediately after delivery and check into one of these delightful offerings.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back and start with preparation.
I’ve been pretty casual about travel insurance in the past. Not this time. Because I know all the things that can possibly (however remotely) go wrong in a pregnancy, I wanted to make sure I could access excellent medical care at any point during our trip.
Interestingly, travel insurance turned out to be very reasonable. We were able to buy my two-week coverage for a meager US$30.
Given the alternative — large medical bills for international health care — obtaining insurance is a no brainer. Make sure you do it.
When Ben and I first started talking about including Hong Kong in our Asian adventure, we didn’t realize it was experiencing an influenza outbreak.
But right before our trip, we learned more than 100 people had died there from the flu in the previous month.
Thankfully, I’d already had my flu shot — as all pregnant women should. However, the vaccine does not provide 100 percent protection.
We decided to take a calculated risk and go to Hong Kong anyway, but my husband brought protective masks along with us.
It's very common to wear these in Asian culture. Some people wear masks to avoid illness, others do because they are sick and don't want to spread germs.
At the first sound of a cough on our return flight from Hong Kong, Ben pulled out our masks and insisted we wear them the rest of the flight.
It was a little uncomfortable, but when you’re pregnant and your fetus is at risk, wearing a mask is the best thing you can do to reduce the chance of getting sick.
Speaking of flying, getting a blood clot was my biggest travel concern.
Flying, especially on long-hauls, poses a risk because passengers are mostly immobile and their blood doesn’t circulate as well as usual.
Pregnant women are at even higher risk.
Some ways to prevent blood clots are getting up and moving around on the airplane, doing leg exercises while sitting and wearing compression stockings.
I was so concerned, I told my husband to wake me up every 2 hours on the 14-hour flight from Seattle to Taipei, so I could get up and move about.
This method definitely kept me safe, but I confess I shot my poor husband a few grumpy, sleep-deprived faces whenever he roused me.
General aches and pains
Ah, the wonderful joys of traveling while pregnant!
My husband and I spent the last three days of our two-week trip in Hong Kong and did a lot of walking —13 to 14 hours a day, in fact.
Unless you’re used to this amount of walking, I don't necessarily recommend it. The lower back pain many women get while pregnant is no joke, and such long days can certainly exacerbate it.
But it was the end of a fantastic vacation, a great mix of visiting family and being tourists on our own, and I was not complaining.
I’m glad we prepared and thankful nothing disastrous happened — despite some fears triggered by my wild imagination.
Find an excellent MultiCare OB/GYN to guide you through a healthy pregnancy and delivery experience.
Learn more about pregnancy and newborn care.