When you’re pregnant, everyday activities take on an extra layer of difficulty. You can’t sleep in a comfortable position or go from sitting to standing with anything resembling grace. Working—whether you’re on your feet all day or trapped at a desk for eight straight hours—can be trying. And commuting to and from work? Is probably no fun either.
A long commute (defined as 80 kilometres or more) can actually put the health of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby at risk. Shorter commutes, while not inherently dangerous, can still be downright unpleasant—especially if that commute involves carpooling or public transportation. You’re confined to a small space with stale air, any smells that other folks bring along for the ride and no input on temperature regulation.
But there are a few things you can do to make commuting while pregnant a little less trying.
Always carry snacks
Snacks are important for a couple of reasons when you’re pregnant. You have an increased appetite or a lot of nausea, both of which can be kept at bay with the right emergency snack. Some candies or plain crackers to settle your stomach, a sugary treat (one Lifehacker staff member swore by gummy bears) in case you feel your blood sugar dropping. Or even an apple, which you can eat slowly and has the benefit of providing something a little fresher to smell than the person next to you.
Whenever possible, take your time
If your bus or train are extra full and you have the flexibility to wait for the next one, that might be your best bet. The next one is likely to be a little less crowded and not being packed in like sardines with all the funky smells and overheating potential is probably worth a longer wait.
Bring a book or add a few new games to your phone to pass the time. For example, this may be a good time to memorise cool and useless facts.
Take a seat
Do what you need to do (within reason, of course) to snag yourself a seat. If ever you should get a seat, it’s now. And don’t be afraid to ask if 1. you are very clearly pregnant but no one seems to notice/care or 2. you’re in that still-too-soon-to-be-showing-but-oh-so-sick phase.
In the case of the latter, you might not be showing yet, but it’s ok if strangers know you’re pregnant. They’re not going to post it on Facebook for your co-workers to discover. And you telling them you’re pregnant is a better option than vomiting all over their lap. In fact, go ahead and use that line if you need to: “I hate to ask you to switch spots with me, but there is a very distinct possibility that I may puke on you if you don’t.”
Accessories are your friend
Accessories used to be things you brought along to add another layer of dimension to your outfit, a way to truly showcase your style. Well now they’re going to help you deal with all the unpleasantness around you. Keep these items on hand at all times:
A scarf. A lightweight silky scarf in the summer or a regular winter scarf during the cold months. Before it kept you stylish/warm; now it goes over the nose to block out smells.
Sunglasses. So you can close your eyes if you get dizzy/nauseated without drawing extra attention to yourself.
A fan. When you get overheated, you can fan yourself with whatever you happen to have stuffed in your purse… or you can be prepared with a pretty folding fan, like this one.
A barf bag. OK, not really an “accessory,” per se, unless you get a cute one. Hopefully you’re never going to actually need this, but better to be prepared.
Create a “bubble of tolerable scent”
A pregnant woman’s sense of smell is strong. The slightest whiff of something offensive (like the cologne that dude next to you is wearing) is enough to make you retch.
Here is an actual suggestion from a real-life pregnant woman I know, and it’s a good one: Dab a bit of peppermint essential oil on your forehead in the morning so that it is the predominant scent on your commute. She calls it her “bubble of tolerable scent.”
If the essential oil stops working, she says, she’s going to use fresh lavender as a bookmark and stick her nose in between those pages as needed. You can use scented hand lotion, too, and cup your tolerable-smelling hands around your nose. Nothing is too obvious when you’re trying to survive a public commute.