Women’s Travel Health
Women travelling abroad will encounter a range of women’s travel health issues: ranging from pregnancy complications to urinary tract infections to candida. Female backpackers should be prepared for unexpected illnesses and be able to recognize the symptoms and effectively treat them before the issue worsens.
Pregnant Women: Women’s Travel Health Issues
Pregnant women should visit a physician before travelling abroad. The ideal time to travel is in the 2nd trimester (between 16 and 28 weeks) when the risk of pregnancy related issues are at their lowest and pregnant women tend to feel their best. During the first trimester, women are more prone to miscarriages while in their third trimester complications such as high blood pressure and premature labour can occur. As a safety precaution, pregnant women should travel with a travel companion. They should keep in mind that antenatal facilities vary greatly between countries and should carefully evaluate whether they feel comfortable travelling to countries with poor medical facilities or where there are cultural or language differences. Rural travel should be avoided, as there may be a lack of proper medical facilities and medicine.
Pregnant women should avoid travel to areas with Chloroquine-resistant malaria, as malaria is a high-risk disease in pregnancy. They should also be careful what they eat and drink – while traveller’s diarrhea can lead to inadequate blood flow to the placenta, many of the drugs used to treat diarrhea bugs are not advised while pregnant (azithromycin has been deemed safe). Pregnant women should avoid most vaccines unless a substantial risk exists (particularly yellow fever, as it may infect the fetus). Most importantly, pregnant women should ensure that their travel insurance covers all pregnancy related issues, particularly premature labour and postnatal care.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Women’s Travel Health Issues
Long bus rides, with infrequent bus stop and lack of water may lead to UTIs. Even women who don’t usually get UTIs in their home country should bring appropriate medication, as they can be incredibly painful. Cirproflaxacin (Cipro), an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections is a multi purpose medication that can be used to treat, in addition to UTIs, skin, lungs, bones joints caused by susceptible bacteria.
Menstrual Cycle: Women’s Travel Health Issues
Change in temperature, stress, exhaustion, and lack of sleep all contribute to shifts in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women taking oral contraceptives should bear in mind that diarrhea, vomiting and antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of the pill and can lead to risk of pregnancy – women should use condoms if engaging in sexual activities. Similarly, women who are not taking birth control may experience a change in their menstrual cycle, for instance, missing one or multiple periods. This is totally normal but safe sex practices should always be practiced. Consult a doctor if your menstrual does not reappear after 3-4 months.
Candida/Yeast Infection: Women’s Travel Health Issues
Antibiotic use, polyester underwear and contraceptive pills can all lead to fungal vaginal infections. Fungal symptoms include: itchiness, discharge, rash and pain during sex. It can be treated with an anti-candida tablet such as Diflucan or anti-fungal cream (i.e. Monistat). Where no pharmacies exist, a vinegar or lemon douche may be utilized or women may insert a piece of raw garlic wrapped in gauze into their vagina. To avoid fungal infections, women should maintain good hygiene, wear loose fitting clothes and always opt for cotton underwear.
Women’s travel health issues will arise on many female backpacker’s trips; however, if you come prepared and take proper precautions these issues can be easily avoided.