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

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.

Supplies

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 — for more than the US price — 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, it's simpler and cheaper to bring what you'll need from home.

Yeast and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Your bladder can react to a sudden change in diet, especially increases in alcohol, coffee, or juice. If you experience UTI symptoms, see a pharmacist as soon as you can.

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.

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.

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.

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, between weeks 14 and 28, when your body's used to being pregnant, you're not yet too big to be uncomfortable, and you face the lowest risks of miscarriage and preterm labor.

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

Pace yourself and allow plenty of time for rest. If problems pop up, go to a clinic or hospital. If you'll need certain tests done (such as an amniocentesis), find out in advance when you'll need to be home.

Seek out nutritious food (though some of it may make you nauseated, of course). Picnics are often healthier than restaurant meals. 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, she'll enjoy knowing she's already been to Europe — especially if you promise to take her again.


Risa Laib is the special publications editor of the Rick Steves guidebook series, as well as a veteran traveler.