It was the perfectly planned babymoon: a week of sailing the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, sipping mocktails, swimming in tropical waters and reconnecting as a couple in an adults-only paradise before the arrival of our first child.
The desire to travel without a port-a-cot, spare nappies and an iPad loaded with pacifying episodes of Peppa Pig just one last time is a big temptation for most expectant couples, who have already battled through first trimester morning sickness, overenthusiastic grandparents-to-be and smug mummies eager to impose their birth horror stories. Sneaking away for a babymoon is as much a celebration of becoming a parent as it is a chance to catch your breath before bub comes – and an increasing trend among expectant parents.
However, five days before our getaway, the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention put out a travel warning, recommending pregnant women should defer travel to Fiji. The culprit? An outbreak of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus. While symptoms are mild and similar to the flu, infection during pregnancy has been linked to serious birth defects. Even if the mother isn't infected, Zika can still be transmitted sexually if her partner is bitten.
My GP, midwife and the NSW Health website all concurred: pregnant women should postpone travel to the region. Cranky and defeated, our babymoon bubble burst.
In hindsight, choosing a domestic babymoon would have saved us a lot of disappointment, money and hassle. While international babymoon destinations still glitter on the horizon for expectant parents, the discomfort of a long-haul economy flight, vaccinations and travel advisory warnings – not to mention the unpredictability of morning sickness – can make an international babymoon more hassle than it's worth.
"A babymoon is a fantastic way to relax before the arrival of a new baby, however, we encourage women to travel within Australia when they're pregnant, especially after 20 weeks gestation," says Dr Steve Rashford, chief medical officer of Cover-More Insurance.
"The recent popularity in overseas travel during pregnancy means we are seeing more women unfortunately experience a pregnancy complication in another country, which can be compromised by the standard of available healthcare" he says.
"For example, in some countries, mother and baby are separated in hospital, while in other areas the right equipment may not be available to effectively assist a premature baby or medical staff may not be experienced in certain pregnancy complications, pre-term labour or premature delivery.
"There are some popular babymoon destinations that offer access to fantastic standards of healthcare, but others don't. That's why we encourage women and their partners to holiday closer to home so they have access to Australia's exceptional standard of healthcare and their invaluable network of family and friends."
Luckily, there are a number of incredible babymoon packages available in Australia that are designed to pamper parents, from cozy B&Bs in regional cities to five-star hotels with high-end dining.
"Queensland holiday destinations are becoming increasing popular for babymoons, with expectant couples choosing to stay at properties boasting luxurious tropical surrounds and a suite of dining and leisure facilities onsite," says Anton Derham, general manager of Mantra Group Reservations.
A bit of careful planning will ensure your babymoon is as enjoyable and fuss-free as possible.
The best place to start is by seeing your obstetrician, doctor or midwife to get the okay to travel. Once you've got the green light, it's time to look at insurance.
Many travel insurance will cover pregnant women carrying one child who have not experienced complications up to 24 weeks into their pregnancy, with some offering cover through to 32 weeks.
However, there are a reduced number of insurance options for women who have conceived via assisted reproductive services such as IVF, for those who have complications, or for mums carrying more than one baby – so if you have twins, triplets (or more!) on the way, shop around.
No matter what policy you choose, it's important to read the fine print and opt for the most comprehensive cover, and if unsure, call to make sure. Questions to ask include whether your policy covers medical evacuation, what exclusions apply, and whether your baby is covered if it is born premature.
PLANNING TO FLY
Flying while pregnant can be easy, but it does require extra planning.
Each airline has its own policy on flying while pregnant – however most airlines advise you to carry a letter from your doctor or midwife if you're more than 28 weeks pregnant, dated no earlier than 10 days before your departure.
The letter should list your due date, whether you're carrying one or more babies, confirm the absence of complications and your fitness to fly for the period for which your flights are booked (this means not just for your departure date but also your return flight). As standard, any pregnancy that has had complications requires medical clearance.
While it can be irksome to disclose your private medical history to a check-in clerk who could just have a mean case of the Mondays, having proof you're fit to fly is critical to avoiding logistical stress – and possibly needing to find another way home.
According to the Qantas website, for routine pregnancies, passengers "… can travel up to the end of the 40th week for single pregnancies and the end of the 36th week for multiple pregnancies", for flights less than four hours, while for flights of four hours or greater for routine pregnancies, passengers "can travel up to the end of the 36th week for single pregnancies and the end of the 32nd week for multiple pregnancies (e.g. twins)".
Virgin has a similar policy. Pregnant women can fly up to 40 weeks for single pregnancies for flights under four hours (36 weeks for multiple pregnancies), and can travel up to 36 weeks for flights of more than four hours for a single pregnancy, and 32 weeks for multiple pregnancies.
Regardless of which airline you fly, it's critical to check online policies before you book and pay for your flights.
Once on board, carrying snacks is handy (especially if you're delayed or your meal option is limited to a lukewarm prosciutto salad). While generally the aisle is a convenient seat choice for quick bathroom runs, beware getting whacked by fellow passengers accessing the overhead luggage compartments (trust me, it hurts).
Cruises are hugely popular in Australia, however each operator has its own policy regarding pregnancy. Keep in mind that cruises can be susceptible to rough weather, making it a less than comfortable choice if you're expecting. It's also worth considering that while cruises generally have medically trained staff, the facilities and expertise can be limited – and medical evacuation can be a complicated and expensive process.
Not keen to fly? Road tripping is sa popular babymoon option. According to the NSW Centre for Road Safety website, seatbelts worn by pregnant women should be positioned with the lap part of the belt as low as possible on the abdomen, with the sash part of the belt positioned between the breasts.
Wearing a seatbelt while pregnant is compulsory during all three trimesters and you can be fined for not wearing one – as well as putting yourself at great risk of injury or death in case of an accident.
What you eat while you're away is another important consideration. On top of the usual things to avoid eating in pregnancy (raw fish, deli meats, soft cheese), the hotel buffet might not be your best friend. Eat food that is freshly prepared and if low on options, ask the kitchen to make something fresh to avoid the possibility of food poisoning.
What you do on your babymoon is also critical. Activities such as scuba diving, skiing or horse riding are out; relaxing is in. And speaking from the personal horrors of camping while in the first trimester, it's important to follow the golden rules of travel while pregnant: safety and comfort (and a close bathroom) are king.
THREE BABYMOON PACKAGES
1. LILIANFEL'S, NEW SOUTH WALES
Lilianfel's Babymoon package is available from Tuesday to Saturday and includes one night's accommodation in a Deluxe Resort View Room, a two-hour spa treatment for parents, three-course meal and breakfast from $1177. See lilianfels.com.au
2. HOTEL LINDRUM, VICTORIA
For a more urban babymoon, The Hotel Lindrum offers a Memorable Moments Babymoon package including a night in a Junior Suite, mocktails on arrival, breakfast and a custom in-room pregnancy massage, from $540. See hotellindrum.com.au
3. LIZARD ISLAND, QUEENSLAND
Lizard Island's babymoon package includes mocktails on arrival, a one-hour spa treatment for parents, sunset cruise and private beach dining from $2174 a night in the Gardenview Room, minimum three nights and subject to availability. See lizardisland.com.au
ONCE BUB ARRIVES …
Congratulations! Once your baby arrives, travel becomes a whole new ballgame. If you have to travel a long distance by car, make sure your approved babyseat is fitted correctly.
Flying straight after giving birth is subject to certain restrictions, with airline policies varying greatly. Both new mums and newborns face a similar situation: some airlines allow mothers and babies to fly within 48 hours for a complication-free "natural" delivery, while others require medical clearance if you plan to fly within seven days of giving birth.
As always, it's best to check directly with your airline. .