Whether you're looking for a last getaway before your first baby arrives or a much-needed mid-trimester break, the Caribbean sun and sand is a mighty appealing option for a pre-partum vacation. Jan Rydfors, M.D., co-creator of The Pregnancy Companion: The Obstetrician's Mobile Guide to Pregnancy, says pregnant women should not hesitate to take a Caribbean vacation as long as they follow some simple rules to keep themselves and their baby as healthy as possible.
Remember that hydration is extra important when you’re pregnant as more water evaporates from your skin during pregnancy. That's especially true when traveling to warm locations like the Caribbean, as heat will enhance fluid loss. Try to drink at least 10, eight-ounce glasses of fluid every day, and even more on hot days.
The sun feels good, and getting a nice tan feels like a must when visiting the Caribbean, but be careful now that you are pregnant. High levels of pregnancy hormones will increase your chances of skin discoloration that might be permanent, so remember to put on ultra-strong sunblock of SPF 50 or more. If you want to be extra careful, put sunblock on your skin even under your clothes, since clothes only provide an SPF block of 10 or so.
Before flying or taking a cruise to the islands, have your obstetrician (OB) prescribe you some nausea medication and antibiotics in the event that you get sick. Nausea medication such as Ondansetron or the Scopolamine patch, and 1000mg of Azithromycin for travel diarrhea, are the drugs of choice in pregnancy. Also, bring over-the-counter Immodium with you to avoid dehydration in the event of diarrhea, and rehydrate yourself with coconut water and broth soups.
Air travel is safe during pregnancy, despite some voiced concerns regarding cosmic radiation and low oxygen levels in the passenger compartment. The risk in both cases is negligible. But if you do fly, try to get an aisle seat so that you can go to the bathroom frequently and take repeated walks down the aisles. Wear your seatbelt below your belly. If you are in your third trimester and the flight is over a few hours, you may experience significant foot swelling, so consider wearing comfortable sandals and support stockings.
Finally, make sure you are aware of the airline’s pregnancy-age cutoff. Many use 36 weeks, but some set their travel prohibition earlier. It is always a good idea to get a note from your OB regarding your due date since the airline might ask for it. If you have any contractions or bleeding, contact your OB before leaving.
If traveling by car once you arrive in the Caribbean, remember to wear your seatbelt at all times and make sure it does not cover your pregnant belly.
If you are traveling outside of the U.S., there are extra precautions to take. Make sure you use safe drinking water (in the Caribbean, most tap water is safe to drink). Bottled carbonated water is the safest to use when unsure about the tap water. Alternatively, you can also boil your tap water for three minutes.
Remember that freezing does not kill bacteria so make sure you use ice from a safe water source. Also, don’t drink out of glasses that have been washed in unboiled water. To help prevent common travel diarrhea, avoid fresh fruits and vegetables that have not been cooked or that you have not peeled yourself. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat and fish.
Finally, with the Zika virus posing a particular threat to pregnant women, check the latest information on the Center for Disease Control's Travel Health site to find out whether the mosquito-borne illness is present in your planned destination.
About the Author: Dr. Jan Rydfors is a Board Certified OB/GYN specializing in fertility and high-risk pregnancy and Co-Creator of the Pregnancy Companion: The Obstetrician's Mobile Guide to Pregnancy, the only app created and staffed by Board Certified OB/GYNs, Pregnancy Companion is recommended by over 5,000 doctors across the country.