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Cruising while pregnant: Safety tips for expecting moms

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Hit the high seas

Are you thinking of taking a cruise during your pregnancy? A cruise can be a great getaway for a couple before the birth of a child. But before you book your tickets, there are a few things you should know.

Cruise with Pregnant CoupleTaking a cruise can be a rewarding way to travel since you see many ports of call in a relatively short time. And with food and beverages covered - at least on the water and juice end of things - it's an easy way to get away with a predictable, fixed cost of travel. However, if you are pregnant, there is more to consider than balcony or no balcony.

How many weeks will you be?

Cruise lines used to vary widely on their pregnant cruisers policy. However these days, many cruise lines have set a strict cut off for cruising. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and other popular cruise lines won't allow pregnant women to board after 24 weeks, due to concerns about preterm birth. They also require a doctor's note that indicates mom and baby's fitness to travel and the expected due date.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the safest time to travel during pregnancy is during the second trimester, which lasts from week 18 to week 24.

Your best bet? If you want to book a cruise, talk to your doctor first. Then speak to the cruise line. Then book, if all is kosher.

Board happily

Ready to go? When you get to the ship, have all of your documentation ready - passports, doctor's note, etc. That way you won't be left digging through your bags looking for the note while the line grows longer and more impatient. When embarking on a cruise, it's better to be proactive about showing your fitness to travel.

If the lines are particularly long, you can ask to have your departure expedited on account of pregnancy.

"After standing in line for three hours straight waiting to be processed we finally pulled out the 'I am pregnant card.' We were rushed to the front of the line and on board the boat sipping a juice cocktail in 10 minutes. If I had only known this before. I had nearly fainted due to the strain of carry the baggage and standing on my feet for so long," says Stacy Francis of Francis Financial.

Sleeping peacefully

Beds on cruise ships are not the most comfortable. Heck, they may not be comfortable at all. With dippy and worn down mattresses, it can be hard for a mom-to-be to get comfortable. But that doesn't mean you need to be uncomfortable.

Don't be afraid to ask for additional pillows. You can use pillows to raise your tired feet above heart level, align your growing belly with your body and shore up your back. That will great the comfort level of the bed.

Another option to ensure your comfort is to bring a special pillow from home such as a pregnancy pillow or body pillow.

Eating well

Just because cruises are all you can eat, doesn't mean you should eat all you can. With a plethora of food options available, you might be tempted to lunch on only fried foods and ice cream, but that isn't best for you or your baby.

Instead, practice moderation and try to stick to a healthy mix of foods when eating. That means getting in your five vegetables, three servings of dairy and so on every day. You may want to keep a food journal to make sure you are hitting all the right bases each day.

And, don't forget about hydration.

Excursion safety

Many shore excursions offered by cruise lines aren't appropriate for pregnant travelers. Things like scuba diving, wine tasting, parasailing are off limits, however there are often some tour options that are good for everyone. If you want to see a lot of the island, head off on one of those.

However, many pregnant women choose to forgo excursions. "I did not take any excursions because I did limit my walking; however, I knew ahead of time that I was just going to go and relax and have a great time. I did go on-shore and went shopping (of course!). The walking was good but I did need to stop and rest throughout the day," says Vicki L. Lyon, who embarked on a cruise at 20-weeks pregnant.

Be aware of medical care

When heading off on a cruise, to use a horrid cliche, it's better to be safe than sorry. For that reason, you should pack any medicines you might need including prenatal vitamins, acetaminophen, and a heartburn combatant like Tums. Also, always verify that a qualified medical professional will be available on board before booking. Smaller cruise ships don't necessarily have an on-board doctor, so for safety it's best to be sure that someone will be available should the need arise.

You may also want to bring something that your doctor recommends for sea sickness, in case the seas get rough. "At 23 weeks pregnant in May, I went on a cruise to Bermuda out of Baltimore. The worst thing I experienced was really rough seas – terrible! I had a lot of trouble balancing, but luckily did not get sea sick. The Atlantic is very rough, so ... women should be aware of the ocean roughness before booking a particular destination," said Janet Driscoll Miller, president of Search Mojo.

Having a few healthy snacks and bottled water is also a good idea. Using reusable bottles to keep water at hand are a great way to ensure that you stay hydrated all day.

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