Wednesday, October 1, 2014

European travel while pregnant

Let's break up the trip recaps with some talk about how our 2 week Italy trip went for me, as a 16+ week pregnant woman. I know my experience was a little different because of the nature of our vacation. We weren't in large towns, we were hiking a lot, we stayed in tiny rifugio. Also, all of Europe isn't the same. Clearly. With those disclaimers, here's my experience.

Flight length
Last year, we flew ultra-long distances to New Zealand, so I had an idea what I was getting into with our 9.5 hour flight. Still, my mom and my midwife both warned me about increased risk of blood clots during pregnancy, particularly when flying. My solutions: compression socks, lots of water, walking around frequently, sit on the aisle so getting up and down is easy. We brought our own water bottles so I wouldn't be at the whim of the beverage cart gods (although our airline, Austrian Airlines, was awesome and we got beverages very easily!). The only low point for me was an incredibly rough approach into Dulles on the way back that tested my ability to control my vomit impulses (I won, barely).

Booze everywhere
I was totally fine during the solo hiking portion of our trip, but once we got to the via ferrata, we were joined by 2 Australians, 3 Americans, and 2 Italian guides. All of them wanted to drink, some more heavily than others. Beer at lunch was standard, and wine always came with dinner. I definitely coveted the lunchtime beers, especially when the alternative was 1) paying for room temperature water (tap water was not an option at restaurants) or 2) drinking from my hiking bottles, which smelled like sunscreen and were also not cold. I just wanted a cold drink! This wasn't really a problem, per se, but I did get jealous. I satisfied myself with tiny sips of Nick's beer and wine.

Soft Cheeses
I love cheese so, so much. I love it on salads and pasta and by itself. I was warned before our trip to be wary of soft cheeses since they might be unpasteurized, which carries an increased risk of exposure to listeria. I figured I'd just avoid them when possible, but still have tastes here are there. It turned out they were fairly ubiquitous. Cheese plates had soft cheeses (of course) but so did pizzas, salads, and pasta. I basically threw caution to the wind with this one so that I could eat the foods that were offered to me. And it was delicious.

Eggs
In the US, I eat my eggs super hard cooked. Boiled eggs are hard-boiled. The only other way I like to eat eggs is scrambled until fairly dry. This is a personal preference, but while pregnant, runny eggs should be avoided due to the risk of salmonella. On our first morning, the hotel had an egg boiler. Someone soft boiled the eggs and they were incredibly runny. I figured, oh well, this is one experience, tomorrow I will get some hard cooked eggs. Nope. The next time I had eggs, they were just barely fried on one side. The white was still a little soft.!The yolk wasn't even hot, just warm. It turns out, this kind of egg is quite tasty, but it still worried me. I had more soft-boiled and barely fried eggs at multiple other stops. I specifically requested hard cooked eggs at one dinner, and got... slightly less soft eggs. Since I was worried about my protein intake (see below), I went with what tasted good, put my faith in the kitchen cleanliness of the places we frequented, and ate what was available.

Protein (as a vegetarian)
In my daily life, I have no problem getting a ton of protein in my diet (my midwife hinted that maybe I could cut back. I can quit whenever I want. I'm just a social protein eater). In Italy, I figured I'd be ok- surely there would be vegetarian options with a little more bulk to them than just salads and pasta! False. There was one day in particular where I had cereal for breakfast (not much protein), pasta for lunch, and polenta for dinner. That day, I had a Clif bar or 2 to supplement my needs, and hoped it would be ok. I might have had 40 g of protein that day, on a goal of 60-80. Not so good. This one really worried me because while listeria and salmonella are potential issues, too little protein is a very real issue. I ate lots of cheese when I could, despite worries about saturated fat, and just did my best. Luckily, breakfast almost every day (except cereal day) was yogurt, so I had a guaranteed dairy and protein source. On those days, I probably got 50+ g of protein. Not great, especially considering our activity level, but better.

Fruits and vegetables
Another hard spot for me. I think I had one fresh apple, a banana and a 2 salads during the whole 12 day excursion. I really looked for opportunities to eat more fresh produce, but there weren't a whole lot. I think this was due to the area we were in- up in the mountains, without a lot of access for vehicles to bring in produce. I tried, but failed. This is the second most upsetting issue (after protein) for me, because I know the fetus benefits greatly from the vitamins and minerals in fresh food. I'm eating a ton more since arriving back home in an effort to make up for lost time. 

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