Travelling with my job. Safe when pregnant but not any more pleasant!

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I'm a public health advisor to World Vision and I love what I do for a living!

Polly Walker in Sierra Leone looking slightly bedraggled – still smiling
I do wonder sometimes why the British seem to credit themselves on being polite. Whoever claims that need to share the experience of being 23 weeks pregnant lugging a backpack and suitcase around on the London tube system! This is actually the fifth time I have had to do the Heathrow schlep complete with luggage since being pregnant, and not once has someone offered to help or voluntarily given up the priority seat. I've resorted to literally thrusting my bump into people's oblivious faces to guilt them into offering to let me sit down.

So, you might read this and think 'she must be nuts!' especially those of you who have experienced the nightmare that is pregnancy travel, and know what I'm talking about. But, this is my job! I have been working in international development for about seven years now. My new job requires me to travel frequently to uncomfortably hot countries to deliver trainings on, believe it or not, healthy pregnancy and child care! I adore my job and I'm really 'living my dream', so when I found out I was pregnant I was determined to keep up for as long as I could handle it. But the fact is I don't have a good enough reason not to go. I went to see my doctor fully expecting to wriggle out of this trip with a doctor's note, but, no such luck! Turns out I have a remarkably clean bill of health and with the usual health precautions about preventing DVT, armed with anti-malarials, 5 cans of bug spray, a bumper pack of Gaviscon, I was given the go ahead.

So, flying (with all the right precautions) may be reasonably safe, but it doesn't make it any more pleasant. Let's face it, everything is harder when you're pregnant – tolerance levels are lower, and you often don't notice you have reached your limits until it's too late: you're not hungry and then suddenly you're fainting from extreme jelly-baby cravings; you're perfectly comfortable one second then the next suppressing the urge to strangle the woman in the seat behind you who hasn't stopped talking for five solid unbearable hours...

Pregnancy joke of the week: "Madam, if you are more than 28 weeks pregnant you need to carry a medical certificate to travel" Answer "28 weeks? Me, no way, I just have really bad gas..." – well, the airline staff found it funny!

After a 12 hour transfer through Morocco, I arrive in Sierra Leone looking slightly bedraggled – still smiling (this was before I got on the speed boat!!)

This time, I slept most of the trip, but woke up to transfer in Casablanca with freakishly swollen feet beneath my double-layered flight socks. At 2am when my connection was delayed by four hours, all attempts at dignity were abandoned and I rolled up my jacket and stretched out on the airport floor. At the very least, when you are pregnant, who is going to judge you?

The nicest thing after London Tube experiences is that in Sierra Leone I was treated like royalty - I barely lifted a finger from the moment I stepped off the plane, people helped me with luggage, drove over potholes extra slowly, and offered to help me put my feet up during the training. Perhaps they were trying to make up for the fact that they 'forgot' to mention the training venue was a six and half hour rough road drive through the bush, or that I would be sleeping in a spider / wasp infested guesthouse and taking bucket-baths four times a day from overheating, that my gastric reflux wouldn't take kindly to the burning hot chilli filled oily smoked fish cuisine, or that the speed boat ride from the airport would make my uterus hit the back of my throat whilst leaping over waves. Ah... deep breathing exercises came in handy!

Blogger Polly Walker colleagues in Bonthe, Sierra Leone.

My colleague kindly pointed out to me this morning, "Polly, I mean we are all 'highly-qualified' nutters here, but you are officially a super-nutter". Nevertheless, the trip went well, and I'm now safely back in my London apartment sitting with my decaf tea, (swollen feet in the air) happily watching the minus 2 freezing fog from my window, and secretly wishing this would be the last long trip till I pop my load.

In a way, work has kept me so busy that I haven't even had a chance to think about the big life changes ahead of me. But, on the plane ride home as if by magic, a beautiful 6 month old mixed-race baby girl with thick curly locks of hair was sat next to me, smiling and holding my finger throughout most of the flight, even at one point reaching out and whining to get a cuddle. My heart melted instantly and I felt sad at having to say goodbye. Just then, I was finally been hit with the sudden realisation that this next journey (having my own fluffy-haired baby girl), is going to be my most intrepid adventure yet...

Polly is 34 years old and is pregnant for the first time.

Follow Polly's progress on The Pregnancy Diaries.

For more information on pregnancy health and advice go to

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