Welcome to Birthing Ayurveda, where we follow one woman's pregnancy experience week by week—from a positive home pregnancy test all the way to delivery.
This week I left home for a three-week journey with my spiritual teacher. There will be a lot of movement, a lot of high-altitudes, which means a lot of potential for vata. Taking time to balance vata will be very important for me, and any pregnant mother planning on travel during pregnancy. There are also a number of things that go along with travel that raises questions in pregnant mothers’ minds.
1. When is the best time to travel?
Because the pregnancy is quite fragile in the first trimester, along with many shifts and changes in the body, this is probably not the ideal time to travel (though it is relatively safe). Take it from me who did. The increase in vata that occurs with travel (especially plane travel) creates an imbalance from an already fragile digestive fire (). (Do you remember my vomiting episode at the airport that occurred the day after I came back from traveling to visit my parents?).
The third trimester is generally fine until the last month of the pregnancy, when it is best to be close to your pregnancy health care provider. You are likely to be more uncomfortable and are at an increased risk for a number of complications, including blood clots. Plus, this is a time to start nesting, grounding, and preparing for a lot of change (physically and mentally)! If you are flying, check your airline's policy.
So, I was quite lucky that my teacher’s trip coincided with my second trimester. Thus far, the traveling experience has been (pleasantly) quite different.
2. What are things that you can do to maintain balance while traveling?
The same things, for the most part, that anyone should do when traveling—keep vata low and tend to your digestive fire. The following ideas apply to any type of travel.
- Prior to flying, I did a good self-oil massage with warm oil (I chose Vata Massage Oil), took a long, hot shower, and ate a warm, grounding meal.
- When I am not pregnant, I Travel Well is my go-to. This time, I had a pinch of grated ginger in lime juice with a touch of salt before my flight, during my flight, and after my flight. I continued this before my meals.
- I avoided carbonated drinks while in flight, which create more air (vata!) in the body due to the carbonation.
- After landing, I went for a nice walk—I got this wise advice from a previous teacher and it has served me well.
- I have continued doing my self-oil massages every morning, practicing gentle pranayama, and spending some time meditating.
- I have honored my body with some extra sleep (no late nights for me, thank you). A little Sleep Easy Oil on my head and souls of my feet has also helped.
- I drink hot water and hot teas (without caffeine) throughout the day. And for meals, I have opted for warm and cooked (minimizing beans and other vata-provoking foods) as opposed to raw and cold foods (salads).
3. What are some precautions to take?
- Always make sure that your pregnancy provider knows of your travels.
- If you are on a long flight or car ride, make sure you stretch your legs and pump your feet (like on a gas pedal) every thirty minutes, and get up and walk every hour or two to increase circulation in your legs (pregnant women are more prone to getting blood clots).
- Be aware of your due date and any complications that you have (have it written on a piece of paper in your purse if needed), should any emergencies arise. If you are later in your pregnancy, carry a copy of your prenatal chart.
- Always wear a seat belt (on the plane or in the car).
- In case you were wondering, the airport screening machines are technically safe (truth is, anything that uses electricity—your TV, iPad, and appliances included—emits an electromagnetic field and flying, itself, exposes you to increased radiation). If you wish to avoid it as much as possible (which is likely wise) you can always request a pat down by the TSA officer.
4. What are things that you can do to make the trip more comfortable?
- If it isn’t already, your appetite should be increasing. And if you are like me, you may get nauseated if you do not eat on time because of the acid build-up in the stomach (hello, pitta!). So prepare and pack snacks! Remembering that my digestive fire would be affected by travel, I chose filling but easy-to-digest foods (fruits are my best friend, but I also enjoyed a little bit of cheese and crackers, nuts, dry fruits, and granola bars).
- On the same note, pack water. Staying hydrated is very important.
- Wear breathable clothing for long trips (dress in layers!). I found that I am definitely warmer than normal, but I can never control the temperature in airports or on airplanes, so layers worked well.
5. Anything else?
Enjoy yourself! Use this time as an opportunity to refresh your mind and pay attention to new scenery, new sounds, and new thoughts—all of which your growing baby is keenly paying attention to and picking up on. Just remember to take care of yourself and your body’s needs.