Pregnancy know-how for festivals
Being pregnant at a festival is the ultimate way to work the Woodstock-mother look. And whilst, in theory, if you’re fit and healthy and haven’t had any complications with your pregnancy, there’s no reason to stay at home, there are some essential dos and don’ts.
In this festival guide for pregnancy, we explain:
- Festival food safety for pregnancy
- Dealing with heat, cold and damp
- What to do if you feel unwell
- Dancing around
- Should you see your doctor before you go?
Festival food safety for pregnancy
Food stalls at festivals don’t always offer great choice or great food. What’s more, food-born illnesses increase in the summer months, thriving in hot humid weather.
Food hygiene laws are strict in the UK so it is unlikely that you will get ill. However, pregnant women should be aware of the risk of toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite called toxoplasma gondii, which can be found in undercooked or raw meat and raw cured meat, such as salami or Parma ham.
Although the risk is very low (around 3 in 100,000 women pass the parasite on to their unborn baby) it’s probably worth avoiding these foods if you’re eating al fresco. Dr Claire Chick, an Obstetrician at St Michael’s University Hospital Bristol, who is expecting her second baby says: “Our general advice is to avoid raw and undercooked meat and if you do eat meat watch it being cooked in front of you.”
And whilst it’s tempting to think that going veggie for the weekend is enough to avoid the risk of an upset tummy, other nasties, like Salmonella, can lurk in foods like mayonnaise (when made from raw eggs) and even hummus.
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One way to get around this is to bring your own supplies and a camping stove. Quick cook staples such as pasta or rice and small cool box (it can double as a seat), or cool bag, should see you through the weekend. Remember to pack lots of snacks such as cereal bars and fruit to keep your energy levels up too.
Wash your hands before eating and if you do want to eat out, look for stalls where you can watch the food being prepared and staff who wear gloves, hairnets and aprons.
Dealing with heat, cold and damp
According to NHS Choices, some of the main complaints at festivals are sunstroke, heatstroke and dehydration. “If you get dehydrated, your baby will get dehydrated too,” says pregnant Dr Claire Chick, from St Michael’s University Hospital Bristol.
Pregnant women need to be drinking at least six to eight glasses of fluid (around two pints). “When you're pregnant you have increased fluid demands and for this reason alone, it's important to keep up your fluid intake up,” says Dr Chick.
Dr Chick adds, “Pregnant women are also more prone to UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections), which can be caused be dehydration”.
Simple ways to avoid overheating are staying out of the sun, especially between 12 and 2 when the sun is overhead and seeking shade wherever possible (take an umbrella and a parasol for your campsite). Using a cooling spray will instantly cool, refresh and hydrate your skin.
If you spend the day (and night) dancing be aware of how much you sweat. Do the pee test. If it’s dark and strong smelling, drink an isotonic sports drink, like Lucozade - this will replace lost fluids, salts, sugars and minerals.
Whilst rain and mud are accepted as part of the UK festival experience, sleeping in a damp tent isn’t much fun. Dampness can cause respiratory problems, eye infections, tiredness, and headaches, which is the last thing that you need when you’re pregnant.
Rather than sleep in a cold, wet tent, a campervan is a much drier place for a mum-to-be and means that there’s somewhere quiet you can retreat to when you need a kip.
What to do if you feel unwell
Most festivals have medics and medical tents on site. Make it a priority to know where the tent is and how to get there (and back) to your own camp. If you are close to your due date, it might be worth going along and introducing yourself, just in case!
If you’re fit and healthy and used to physical exercise there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get into the groove and dance the night away. However, it’s worth being aware that muscle strains and tears are more common in pregnancy. This is because the pregnancy hormone that helps the uterus expand also weakens the body's connective tissues. So it’s best to avoid jumping, jarring motions, or quick changes of direction (no crowd surfing or moshing then).
“Dancing around poses no threat to the baby but you probably want to keep your feet on the ground – your cervix has enough to do without you bouncing around and putting it under even more pressure,” says Dr Claire Chick, an obstetrician at St Michael’s University Hospital Bristol.
Festival toilets are notoriously dirty, smelly and unhygienic. But as long as your personal hygiene is up to scratch you should be OK. Stock up on hand gel, toilet roll and baby wipes (biodegradable ones if possible).
Some festivals offer a premium toilet service, like Comfy Crappers, which costs but is probably worth it, especially if you’re in the last trimester and making frequent trips to the loo!
Should you see your doctor before you go?
In theory, going to a festival is no different to going away for the weekend, so there’s no need to see your doctor. However, if you are close to your due date, or you’ve had complications, like high blood pressure, you should get a check-up before you don your dancing wellies.
“Take your pregnancy notes with you (maybe keep them in the car) and locate the medical tent as soon as you get there. And make sure you have the number of the local hospital”, says Dr Chick, from St Michael’s University Hospital Bristol. Some festivals, like Glastonbury, have midwives on site. At Glasto, you’ll find them in the Kidz Field.
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