Since all my travels were planned pre-pregnancy I went on all of them underestimating how I’d feel. I also have a tendency to think I can handle anything, and because I’m fit/healthy I thought I’d be totally fine. Well, I was wrong and do not recommend traveling to busy cities during your 1st trimester, especially internationally. I traveled to San Diego, LA, Cancun, Mexico City and Italy during my 1st trimester. Mexico City was the worst because I got extremely sick and the high elevation made breathing difficult giving me constant headaches. Italy was extremely tiring because of all the walking especially on uneven pavement. I was constantly fatigued no matter how much I slept. Cancun was the best, because we stayed at a trusted 5-star all-inclusive resort, Marquis and all I did was relax and lounge at the pool.
Italy during my 1st trimester
Italy overall was great, but all the rich carb-heavy foods and second-hand smoke made me feel disgusting. I’m thankful I was able to still eat most of the food, but sadly I didn’t enjoy a lot of it because all I wanted was fresh fruit, vegetables, and very plain food which was hard to come by. Since I was with Josh, he was very accommodating and bought me bags of fruits/veggies from the market to help balance my carb-heavy diet.
We were also able to travel at our own pace and not overdo it, but I was always fatigued. We’d enter museums and all I wanted to do was sit down on a bench. Since Italy is a special place to us and such a beautiful country, I’m grateful we got to travel here since it was our last international trip before baby arrives. Yet, all the exploration and walking exhausted me in a way I could not fathom and it felt a bit torturous being out and about on my feet all day because of how I felt. First trimester pregnancy fatigue and the feeling of nausea is real.
Mexico City during my 1st trimester
I do not recommend traveling to Mexico City pregnant, especially if you live somewhere with low elevation. When I arrived to Mexico City, I was so excited but it all went downhill the next day. I got a headache from the high elevation and all the walking triggered my headache making it worse. Mexico City has an elevation of 7,249 feet; San Francisco is only 52 feet for comparison. Shortness of breath is a common pregnancy symptom since your hormone progesterone increases and you’re constantly supplying oxygen to your baby. My headache, breathlessness, and increased tiredness signaled that my baby was receiving less oxygen which worried me since since this harms the baby’s growth and development, especially during your 1st trimester. My headaches persisted and even though it’s advised to not take Advil during pregnancy, it got so bad I took Advil. It helped, but whenever I walked for long periods of time my headache still returned.
Aside from the headache, I got Montezuma’s revenge aka traveller’s diarrhea which was the absolute worst. I had diarrhea for over 2-weeks and there were 2-days I could barely keep anything down my stomach including water. Anything that entered my body came right back out. I was SUPER careful with everything I ate/drank, only drank bottled drinks, and never had ice. So I was honestly shocked at how sick I got since we also only ate at nice, reputable restaurants. If I had to guess, I’m thinking it was a fruit bowl since the fruit may have been washed in tap water. I also had seafood soup at Entremar which made me feel significantly worse (it was after this meal that I got body chills, cold sweats, and severe diarrhea every 15-minutes). The day I felt the worse, was the day I flew back home. I actually bought a new plane ticket to leave earlier cause I was so desperate to get home. I almost threw up at Airport security line since it was the longest I had to hold in my wave of diarrhea lol. It was a struggle.
I’ve been to Mexico 5 times and never got sick the way I did. When you’re pregnant your immune system is weaker making you more susceptible to getting sick. Traveller’s diarrhea is also extremely dangerous during your first trimester since it can cause miscarriages. I went to Mexico 12-weeks pregnant and my traveller’s diarrhea continued into my 13th week. If I had gone earlier, it would have been way riskier.
After Mexico City I was so worried and fearful my baby was ill or even dead based on how sick and how long my sickness persisted. I almost cried when Josh picked me up from the airport because of how stressed and worried I was, plus the guilt I had for going to Mexico City even though Josh and several mom friends advised me not to go. This experience made me realize I can’t make decisions based on myself anymore and everything moms do directly impacts the baby. It also made me realize it’s hard for people to understand what you’re going through and feeling, and how it’s important to be firm and say no to things that make you feel uncomfortable especially if it can harm the baby. The day after I got home from Mexico City, I went to the OBGYN and thankfully everything was fine but the stress, worry and not being able to fully enjoy Mexico City because of how I felt sadly just tarnished the trip for me. So my biggest advice is be wise about where and who you’re traveling with during your 1st trimester since you’re likely to feel pretty bad. I learned this the hard way and wouldn’t want anyone to experience what I did.
My tips on traveling during pregnancy
If you decide to travel during pregnancy here are tips I have based on my experience and advice I received from my midwife & OBGYN.
- Best time to travel during pregnancy is 2nd trimester, after 14-weeks. This is when most feel their best and a lot of symptoms go away like nausea.
- Research and pack medicine. There’s a lot of medicine you can’t take during pregnancy such as Advil, Pepto-bismol and some antibiotics. Imodium is safe though. Do your research and see if your Dr. has recommendations based on where you’re traveling in case you get sick.
- If seeking medical advice, get it from an OBGYN. When I returned from Mexico it was confusing because a primary care Doctor prescribed me Cipro antibiotics. Later my OBGYN and midwife told me Cipro is not safe during pregnancy. Your OBGYN knows what’s best.
- Try to keep trips short unless it’s a relaxing trip. I felt fine on all my weekend trips and my long all-inclusive trip, but the 5+ day city trips exhausted me making everything less enjoyable. If you have long trips, buffer in plenty of time to relax.
- Pack healthy foods or go to a grocery store early to stock up on healthy, nutritious food (like fruits, vegetables, food rich in fiber).
- Stay hydrated with water (8 to 12 cups/day) and always keep a water bottle with you. You need to drink plenty of water during pregnancy to form amniotic fluid, produce extra blood, build new tissue, carry nutrients, help digestion, and flush out wastes and toxins.
- If flying, wear compression socks to promote blood ciruclation and to avoid swelling.
- Stay somewhere with a comfortable bathroom situation since you never know how often you’ll be needing that toilet.
- Don’t overdo it. When traveling I know it’s easy to get caught up and you want to explore everything but a jam-packed schedule may deteriorate your energy and mood.
- Listen to your body. If you’re starting to feel ill, get the rest you need to avoid feeling worse.
I didn’t mean to make this blog post somewhat negative, but I thought it’d be more valuable to share so no-one makes the same mistakes I did. My experience could have also been completely different since everyone’s pregnancy is so unique. My biggest advice is to just be cautious and prepared, especially if traveling somewhere foreign during your 1st or 3rd trimester. Hope you enjoyed reading about my 1st trimester travel experience!