Women’s Health on the Road

Fresh fruits and veggies go a long way to helping anyone stay healthy on the road.
By Rick Steves and Risa Laib

You can find whatever medications you need in Europe, but you already know what works for you in the US. It’s easiest to B.Y.O. pills, whether for cramps, yeast infections, or birth control. Some health-insurance companies issue only a month’s supply of birth control pills at a time; ask for a larger supply for a longer trip. Tampons and pads, widely available in Europe, are sold — for more than the US price — at supermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience stores. You may not see the range of brands and sizes typical in American supermarkets, so if you’re used to a particular type, it’s simpler and cheaper to bring what you’ll need from home.

Yeast and Urinary-Tract Infections

Women prone to yeast infections should bring their own over-the-counter medicine (or know the name and its key ingredient to show a pharmacist in Europe). Some women get a prescription for fluconazole (Diflucan), a powerful pill that cures yeast infections more quickly and tidily than creams and suppositories. If you get a yeast infection in Europe and need medication, go to a pharmacy. If you encounter the rare pharmacist who doesn’t speak English, find an English-speaking local woman to write out “yeast infection” for you in the country’s language to avoid an embarrassing charade.

Your bladder can react to a sudden change in diet, especially increases in alcohol, coffee, or juice. If you experience UTI symptoms, drink plenty of water and use a general pain reliever. If symptoms persist, a pharmacist in Europe should be able to help.

Traveling When Pregnant

Some couples want to time conception to occur in Europe so they can name their child Paris, Siena, or wherever. (Be thoughtful about this, or little Zagreb may harbor a lifelong grudge against you.) Consider bringing a pregnancy test from home to help you find out when you can celebrate.

If you’ll be traveling during your first pregnancy, rip out a few chapters from a book on pregnancy to bring along; it can be hard in Europe to find books in English on pregnancy. If you want certain tests done (such as an amniocentesis), ask your doctor when you need to be home.

Traveling in the first trimester can be rough for some women: Morning sickness can make bus or boat rides especially unpleasant, and climbing all those stone stairs can be exhausting. Packing light is more essential than ever. You might find it easier to travel in the second trimester, when your body’s used to being pregnant and you’re not yet too big to be uncomfortable.

Wear comfortable shoes that have arch supports. If you’ll be traveling a long time, bring loose clothing (with elastic waistbands) and shoes a half size larger to accommodate your changing body. Keep your valuables (cash, passport, etc.) in a neck pouch rather than a constricting money belt.

Pace yourself and allow plenty of time for rest. If problems pop up, go to a clinic or hospital.

Seek out nutritious food (though some of it may make you nauseated, just as in America). Picnics, with drinkable yogurt, are often healthier than restaurant meals. Pack baggies for carrying snacks. Bring prenatal vitamins from home, plus a calcium supplement if you’re not a milk drinker.

It’s actually pleasant to be pregnant in Europe. People are particularly kind. And when your child is old enough to understand, she’ll enjoy knowing she’s already been to Europe — especially if you promise to take her again.

Risa Laib is the long-time managing editor of the Rick Steves guidebook series, as well as a veteran traveler.