A man, a woman, a fetus, a plan ...
January 11, 2016 9:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of taking a trip to Panama in early March when I'll be 25 weeks. Pros, cons, questions and more below the fold!

In early March, I'll be 25 weeks pregnant and craving the beach. I was interested in Hawaii but as an east coaster, I think the flight will be long and expensive. I've long been interested in going to Cancun, Tulum and Chichinitza but I feel concerned about being very pregnant and in Mexico if anything medical comes up. I also tentatively ruled out places that have current State Department warnings. My husband is also interested in Jamaica but I'm wary of getting sick there.

I started looking for places in the Caribbean and Central America with good doctors and Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Panama came up. I've been to Costa Rica, though I certainly wouldn't mind going back. I looked at Puerto Rico but it seemed a little expensive. Plus I'm interested in an all-inclusive which seems rare in Puerto Rico.

Which leads me to consider Panama. I know very little about Panama (canal! Van Halen song!) but I'm encouraged by the little research I've done.

Pros: beach, good doctors, reasonably priced, potential to spend time in an urban environment but also sit in the sun and have an adventure. A pro and a con is that I don't think I know anyone who has gone there.

Cons: I saw something about yellow fever and I'm unvaccinated. I don't know how concerned I should be about Zika virus. It could be too hot. General concerns about traveling anywhere where I haven't been before at 25 weeks into my first pregnancy where English is not the primary language. I have some Spanish and can brush up on it but my husband knows less than I do.

If we went, I'm thinking of going for a week and spending some time in Panama City, then going to a beach for a few days. We'll check with our health insurance to see what the deal is and buy all manner of travel insurance we can. My pregnancy has gone relatively smoothly so far but I'll obviously talk to my doctor. It looks like water in Panama is okay but I can stick to bottles if need be. I'll wear sunscreen and bug spray. If I become convinced this is a terrible idea, I'll try to make Puerto Rico happen more affordably or maybe Miami.

Has anyone been to Panama? Would you recommend? Is a week too much time? Is a week too much time to be away from home at 25 weeks? Are there any destinations I should be considering more seriously? Thanks in advance!
posted by kat518 to Travel & Transportation around Panama (14 answers total)
Are there any destinations I should be considering more seriously?

If you're willing to consider Cuba, it's closer, has great medical care, and plenty of fabulous all-inclusive resorts on the beach.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:51 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think this previous thread regarding traveling at 27 weeks is worth the read - though it is a longer flight and the two weeks from 25 to 27 can make a big difference in comfort.

I am currently pregnant and I think I would have been fine with an international trip at 25 weeks, but the travel would have been tiring and the vacation not as enjoyable as I would like. 23 weeks would have been great; 27 weeks would have been exhausting and uncomfortable. Your experiences will certainly vary - the thing to think about is how you'll feel if you can't go due to some unforeseen complication, or you can go, but you're uncomfortable and don't enjoy it at all. I personally would opt for a domestic trip with a shorter flight (and would go a little sooner if possible as well).
posted by insectosaurus at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2016

Panama is very hot. Hot, think about that.
posted by Freedomboy at 10:39 AM on January 11, 2016

Yes, I think this can be such an individual thing -- I would've been fine physically, but mentally, boy, I'm not sure I would go to a country I wasn't familiar with at that point. If Bad Stuff Happens (and it probably won't!) 25 weeks is just at the point of viability and you would want to be near a really, really good hospital. That said, the risks of delivering that early are so small, and if the craving to go bigger than Florida or San Diego isn't going away . . .

Also, the travel insurance stuff is not straightforward. Note that your insurance will generally cover you -- not the baby -- up to a certain point. I struggled to find travel insurance that would ALSO cover the baby if I delivered at that point; all the companies said that they wouldn't insure someone not born yet. Not generally a big deal, but if you did deliver early, your needs would be covered but the baby's may not. But there may be a way out of this -- and again, the chances are so teeny.
posted by EtTuHealy at 12:04 PM on January 11, 2016

I traveled at 25 weeks and 29 weeks, one week each trip, for work. I was going a one-hour flight to a major US city. It was not great, although the 29 week trip was much harder than the 25 week trip. I'm sure vacation would have been a lot better than work! (I also went on an overnight by train at 32 weeks and that was more fun, but even harder.) But, the travel was extra hard, flying was so uncomfortable, I was tired, I got a terrible cold on the 25 week trip and was still sick at the 29 week trip - and of course couldn't take any cold medicine to deal with anything, sometimes I'd get to the MUST EAT NOW point all of a sudden and that was hard. I really mostly wanted to be home eating familiar food because I felt weird about eating new stuff at that point. Plus it's hard to deal with food cravings when you're traveling. You may be surprised at how fast you go from feeling great to feeling like Giant Enormous Pregnant Lady Who Can't Breathe.

I agree with others....if you can't move the trip sooner, I'd stay in the US and stay closer. However, I'm pretty risk-adverse and I know other people who traveled internationally or just further around then and it was fine. My BFF went to CA from the East Coast around that point and it sounded like a great vacation - they took it really easy, rented a car instead of taking public transit, built in lots of time to rest, and it was fine.
posted by john_snow at 12:18 PM on January 11, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks all for your feedback so far! Looking at my schedule, I'm thinking that maybe I can make it work when I'm more like 21-22 weeks. Would that change your assessment?
posted by kat518 at 12:23 PM on January 11, 2016

Pregnancy aside, I thought Panama City was the worst. I've been lots of places all over the world, and it is literally the only place I wouldn't want to go back to. I don't even know what you'd do there for more than a couple days.

re: yellow fever, I think we were only required to get that shot because we were coming from Ecuador, but it's recommended for places east of the canal; don't know where you were looking.

I'd seriously take another look at Puerto Rico. San Juan is really fun, the beaches are beautiful, and IME it is possible to do it cheaply - lots of airbnbs etc. if you're willing to go that route. The food was pricey, but again, if you're willing to self-cater, etc.

Also, yeah, there are tons of nice beaches in the US, which from a pregnancy standpoint is maybe/probably better.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 3:55 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Domincian Republic is much closer and has excellent medical care available, assuming you can pay for it. Most folks who can afford the flight can afford the doctor; their prices are eminently reasonable for those who are not poor Dominicans.

In either the DR or Panama, be wary of raw veg. While most resorts and other tourist-oriented places take proper food prep precautions, it is by no means universal.

The problem with doing mainland Florida or the Bahamas in the February-March timeframe is that it is entirely possible it will not yet be warm enough for comfortable swimming, although the air temperature should be pretty good that time of year. Key West might work, though.

If insurance isn't an issue, Puerto Rico or one of the US Virgin Islands might be a good way to split the difference. In either case, you can do a layover in Miami to split up the flying to help keep you from getting tired out.
posted by wierdo at 6:42 PM on January 11, 2016

Can't really answer anything about Panama but

I've long been interested in going to Cancun, Tulum and Chichinitza but I feel concerned about being very pregnant and in Mexico if anything medical comes up.

I went to Cancun (well, Riviera Maya) and visited Chichen Itzá right around 24 weeks pregnant. It's a shorter flight there from the east coast than to Panama, so there's that, and I don't know what you've read but Cancun definetly has good hospitals and good doctors. It is not a bohemian beach spot, it's a full on city so there's every medical resource (within reason) you could need should you "get sick" which hopefully you won't. Memail me if you want more info, if you reconsider your original idea. I've been to the Cancun/Riviera Maya area lots of times.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:50 PM on January 11, 2016

OK. Time for some depressing real talk. If you travel at 21-22 weeks, you'll likely feel good and if anything (God forbid) happens to your baby, there's really nothing medical science in any country can do to save him or her.

If you go at 25 weeks, you'll likely feel like crap and if something happens to your baby (God forbid), being able to be immediately treated at a top NICU could save the baby's life. The first of many decisions you're going to have to make as a parent. There isn't really a right answer (despite how I've framed it) since you'll have your factors to consider.
posted by whitewall at 3:26 AM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

CDC PDF on Zika virus.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:24 AM on January 12, 2016

Not sure if you saw this, but the CDC is considering putting a travel warning in place against pregnant women visiting countries with Zika virus.

When I was pregnant, I was regularly annoyed with the attitude that I should be aiming for zero risk to the fetus--I ate soft (pasteurized) cheeses, I occasionally ate a sandwich with cold cuts, I drank 2 cups of coffee a day for all 38 weeks--but my take on this is that it's not an infinitesimal risk like some of the other things that prompt warnings for pregnant women. If I were pregnant, I'd probably take it seriously enough to modify my travel plans to avoid areas with known cases.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:31 PM on January 14, 2016

That warning is now in place.
posted by john_snow at 7:23 PM on January 15, 2016

Response by poster: Yeah, I know about the warning and am back to square one :-( I'm thinking Hawaii now - it'll be a long flight and more expensive but not in the region. There was one case of Zika confirmed there but it wasn't acquired in Hawaii.

Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Belize and Jamaica are not on the CDC list but realistically, if it's in Haiti, it's probably in the Dominican Republic. Likewise Costa Rica and Belize re: the countries that share their borders. So I might consider Jamaica too but I'm concerned that if I get bitten by anything, I won't be able to stop worrying.

I'm going to call my OB on Tuesday. I realize that this is a hashtag first world problem but seriously this sucks. I was starting to look forward to this and was about to buy flights when they announced this Friday night. Hindsight is 20/20 but honestly, right now, I really regret not doing a fun exciting trip before getting knocked up because now I don't think I'll get to go anywhere cool for the foreseeable future and that sucks. I even talked to my boss about taking time off but now I'm thinking why bother. Argh.
posted by kat518 at 9:42 PM on January 16, 2016

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