Let’s face it: Being pregnant isn’t always easy. When you combine pregnancy with the holiday season and all the stress, travel, and family gatherings that can come with it, it can be a lot to take. So what can you do to get through the holidays while pregnant and make it a wonderful time of year?
Holiday travel while pregnant
Traveling for the holidays? The general rule is to restrict travel once you hit about 36 weeks of pregnancy, unless your doctor or midwife has told you to stop earlier. When you do travel, it’s a good idea to take along a copy of your medical records. These will be helpful in the event you should need medical care while you’re gone.
Driving gives you a bit more control over your travel schedule. Plan to stop the car for a break, even just for five to 10 minutes, every two hours. Use this time to stretch, go to the bathroom, and get a drink of water. These breaks will help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs and keep you from becoming stiff and dehydrated. You can also ask your doctor about wearing compression socks to help prevent clots.
If traveling by plane, try to get out of your seat and walk the aisle about every two hours. You are more likely to feel dehydrated on a plane, so drink lots of fluids without caffeine or alcohol. If you have a layover, try to get a good walk in during your break.
No matter how you travel, planning ahead is key. Be sure that any medications you may need are in your carry-on. Plan to bring snacks with you on your trip, and prepare to stop for meals and breaks as needed.
Holiday foods can be problematic
It’s important to be extra careful about general food safety during pregnancy, and the holidays can make this more of a challenge. For example, make sure to avoid leftovers that have been out too long because harmful bacteria may have had the chance to grow.
You may also want to ask what the secret ingredients are in some foods. For example, even if the eggnog is nonalcoholic, it could contain Salmonella if it is made with raw or undercooked eggs. Underdone turkey, unpasteurized cheeses, and unpasteurized apple cider are other risky foods to avoid this holiday season.
One of the biggest risks is that you might contract listeriosis, a foodborne illness that can cause miscarriage, preterm birth, or even stillbirth. When you’re pregnant, you are 10 times more likely to get listeriosis. To decrease your risk, avoid lunch meats unless reheated until steaming hot; refrigerated pate and meat spreads, and unpasteurized foods and drinks.
Alcohol and pregnancy still don’t mix
Pregnant women should avoid all alcohol in pregnancy. For those who have not yet shared the news of their pregnancy, this can make the holidays tricky if people ask why you aren’t drinking. If you don’t want that to be the moment you share the news, it helps to have an excuse ready. For example, some newly pregnant women quickly agree to be the designated driver or claim illness or tiredness.
In addition, there are plenty of fun holiday drinks you can enjoy that don’t contain alcohol. Chilled sparkling grape juice, mocktails, and other festive drinks work well. It’s also a great excuse to try some more varieties of hot chocolate. These drinks, as long as they are not made with unpasteurized ingredients, are safe and delicious in pregnancy.
Friendly advice may cause stress
Warning: Spending copious amounts of time with family and friends can cause stress during the holidays, particularly if they are offering advice about your pregnancy that has not been requested. While most advice is well-intended, it may be ill-informed or simply unwanted. Be ready to move the conversation forward by telling the person you’ll ask your doctor or midwife what they think, or by saying you’d rather talk about something else. Don’t be afraid to take breaks for alone time if you need to de-stress.
Don’t stretch yourself too thin
Overscheduling and not getting enough sleep can also increase stress during the holidays. Be sure to schedule times to rest and just hang out. Constantly being on the go can make your holidays feel like not much of a holiday at all. Your schedule may need to be tailored to your particular pregnancy and how pregnant you are at the time. For example, those in their first or third trimesters typically have a harder time with stress than those in the second.
No matter what your plans are this holiday season, remember that it’s OK to prioritize your needs. Keeping stress levels low is important for both your health and your baby’s.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nutrition During Pregnancy. April 2015. Accessed November 2017.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Travel During Pregnancy. April 2017. Accessed November 2017.
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Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D., LCCE, CLC, AdvCD(DONA) is a childbirth educator, doula, founder of Childbirth.org, and the award-winning pregnancy and parenting author of “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Pregnancy” and more than 10 other books. Between her nine children, teaching childbirth classes, and attending births for more than two decades, she has built up an impressive and practical knowledge base. You can follow Robin on Twitter @RobinPregnancy, Instagram, and Facebook.