Women’s Health on the Road

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

Women in Europe deal with the same health concerns as women in the US, of course, but thinking ahead can improve your chances for a smooth, comfortable trip.


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 are sold at supermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience stores everywhere in Europe. But you may not see the range of brands and sizes typical in American supermarkets, so if you prefer a particular type, or to avoid having to buy more than you need, it can be simpler and cheaper to bring a supply from home.

Yeast and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

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 an advance prescription for fluconazole (Diflucan), a powerful pill that cures yeast infections more quickly and tidily than creams and suppositories, though it's not recommended if you're pregnant.

If you get a yeast infection in Europe and need medication, go to a pharmacy. If you encounter a pharmacist who doesn't speak English, use an online translator to translate "yeast infection" to avoid an embarrassing charade.

Changes in your diet — especially increases in alcohol, coffee, or juice — can cause your bladder to react, leaving you with a UTI. If you experience UTI symptoms in Europe, it's best to see a pharmacist right away; you'll be prescribed an antibiotic.

Traveling when Pregnant

Some people 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 if you're embarking on a longer trip.

Generally, health care providers consider it safe for women with healthy pregnancies to fly up until 36 weeks. Check with your doctor and confirm the airline's policies before booking your ticket. You'll want to plan around the timing of recommended prenatal screening tests, too.

Traveling in the first trimester can be rough: 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, though you'll want to bring motion-sickness remedies (tablets or acupressure wristbands) and snacks that relieve nausea. Many women find it easiest to travel in the second trimester, between weeks 14 and 28, when their body is used to being pregnant, they're not yet too big to be uncomfortable, and the risks of miscarriage and preterm labor are low.

Wear comfortable shoes with good arch support. Pack comfortable maternity wear to accommodate your changing body. Skip the constricting money belt for your valuables. Instead, look for a neck pouch or a cozy scarf with a hidden security pocket.

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

Seek out nutritious food, and stay hydrated. Pack baggies for carrying snacks. Bring prenatal vitamins and any other supplements you need from home.

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

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