Tips for travelling in Asia while pregnant
So many people are nervous about travelling while pregnant and rightfully so! If you have any complications with your pregnancy, I definitely wouldn't recommend it. I had what I thought was a reasonably easy pregnancy, albeit with gestational diabetes. I didn't get overly fatigued, or any 'morning' sickness, the journey was one of the best times of my life.
We had friends who were getting married in Hong Kong who had invited us to be there to celebrate with them. We thought that it was a great opportunity to be able to have a last hurrah before baby arrived. We spent about 6 weeks away travelling to Hong Kong, Japan and China. It was an amazing trip and I wouldn't say that being pregnant restricted me from doing too much. Having gestational diabetes meant that I had to be more careful with what I ate but I was ok with that as I was being incredibly careful with what I ate while pregnant anyway. We started the trip in Hong Kong. Part of the wedding festivities was to go on a 'junk' boat. I somehow forgot that I get horribly seasick and accepted the invitation without hesitation. I ended up getting terribly sick while on the boat. I thought that going for a swim may make the nausea go away, it didn't... At all. I went from not getting any 'morning' sickness to being nauseated on anything that moved- cars, escalators, elevators, boats, trains, planes.. EVERYTHING! This was at the beginning of the trip.
So my tips for travelling while pregnant, mainly revolve around not making the same mistakes as me ;)
- Choose a destination where you may not be walking around too much..... this is not what we did. We were away while I was 20+ weeks pregnant. We were never the sort of travelers who would just chill in the one location and instead, spent our ENTIRE days walking around and exploring. This is a brilliant idea when you are not pregnant. I fully encourage seeing all that you can see while in a new country. However, when you're pregnant and you have a new little life partner growing rapidly inside of you, your body is going through a massive transition. I ended up getting excruciating sciatica. Generally things were fine when we were out and about however, first thing in the morning and in the afternoon after kilometers and kilometers of walking around, I was literally unable to move.
- Even though you will be watching what you're eating anyway because you're pregnant, watch it even more carefully when you're in a country that you are unfamiliar with. We prepared our bellies by eating bucket loads of dumplings before our trip, yet we still somehow managed to eat something that caused our stomachs to be upset for the entirety of the trip. This started at the end of our time in Hong Kong, continued through our time in Japan (all 2 weeks!), then still continued through our time in China. The plus side- if there is any- was that while we were at our worst, the toilets were most welcoming in Japan. (seat warmers, music, bidet LOL). This leads me to my next point;
- If you're travelling through China, ALWAYS make sure you are carrying a packet of tissues or wet wipes with you AND hand sanitiser. Most of the public toilets we came across did not have toilet paper in the cubicles, only by the basins. They are not the western style toilets that many of us are used to either, they are the squatting kind.....not so convenient when you have a big baby belly.
- If you are going to China, whether pregnant or not, I highly recommend getting a tour guide. There is so much to see there and language can be a massive barrier. Having someone who is there for you, who will drive you around, order your food for you and barter for you with the local shops is a total advantage. We had the sweetest girl and a driver who took us around showing all the sites. Our tour guide was so sweet, she became quite protective of me because I was pregnant. She stood as a barrier between me and the locals who didn't seem to have the same need for personal space as I did. She also didn't want me walking too far along the Great Wall of China because it was very icy and slippery. I must admit, my style of travel has always been self discovery. I have never had a tour guide in any other country that I have visited. I ended up choosing to get a tour guide on recommendation from a friend of mine and I didn't regret the decision once. It meant that we skipped queues, we didn't have to get taxi's or public transport to the places we were visiting, everything was already pre-paid and we managed to see all the sites we had set out to- as well as places that we went to in our free time.
- If you happen to be travelling through Japan while pregnant, do NOT stay the night in a traditional Ryokan. If you are not pregnant, I highly recommend you to do it! However, if you are growing a little baby muffin in your belly, opt for the supportive sleeping options! I thought that I was in pain from my sciatica just from walking around...that was before I slept on the floor. Sleeping is already uncomfortable when you're pregnant, no one needs to make the same mistake as me by making the active choice to sleep on the floor. Going to a ryokan is an amazing experience, you have the hot baths (which you're unable to go to while pregnant) and the delicious food (most of which you're unable to eat while pregnant). This experience is best reserved for when you are fully able to appreciate every aspect and not have a limited version of it.
- We did manage to find a massive benefit of travelling in Asia....inexpensive massages :) after walking endlessly every day, we found that our legs and backs were really paying the price. We spoiled ourselves by getting massages regularly throughout this vacation. Many of the places in Hong Kong and China refused to massage my feel while I was pregnant because apparently there are pressure points that can induce labor. I was more than happy to postpone the fun of labor for as long as possible, however, my feet were one of the places that I was craving the massage the most because of all of the walking we were doing and the extra weight they were carrying from baby.
We really had an amazing time while on this vacation, there isn't much I would change, just things that I would do differently. Bike riding through Nara in Japan, walking up to the massive Buddha in Hong Kong, visiting the Terracotta Warriors in Xian are amazing experiences that I would do again in a heartbeat. However, I missed out on the fish markets and eating beautiful fresh sashimi while we were in Japan (because you're not supposed to eat raw fish). I wasn't able to participate in any holiday shopping (aside from bags and shoes) because none of the clothes fit me.... in fact, the shoes didn't fit me either- I am a reasonably tall, not skinny girl, Asian clothes were not made to fit my body, especially in it's pregnant form :) I would have loved to spend more time walking along the Great Wall of China or being able to enjoy the 'junk' boat ride without being seasick (probably still unlikely without being pregnant). I would have loved to go hiking in Hong Kong. Next time I am in Japan, I will go wild with all the foods I was unable to eat. The things I missed out on, are now on my list for the next time I make it to those countries. I desperately wanted to go to Disneyland in both Hong Kong and Tokyo although, I am now really excited to be able to have that experience with my daughter WHEN we eventually make it there. The bucket list is always ever expanding :)