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Traveling in Greece While Pregnant

by Kerry Kokkinogenis

My husband is Greek, and his parents currently live outside of Korinthos. We had planned to bring our first daughter to Greece when she was just over a year to meet her grandparents and family on that side. The day we left, I found out I was three months pregnant with our second. Because my in-laws are spread out in different corners of Greece, we did quite a bit of traveling, by rental car on the highways, as well as by buses within Athens and from Athens to Korinthos. During this process I learned some important lessons about travelling in Greece while pregnant, although the lessons probably translate to traveling in a lot of places.

First, and probably most shocking to most Americans, is that the rules change significantly regarding what you “can” and “cannot” do/eat/drink while pregnant. In the U.S., the limitations are almost without limit: no alcohol, no caffeine, no cigarettes, no over the counter medications, no hairdyes, no seafood, no eggs, no under-cooked meats, no… And then there are the limitations that morning sickness puts on one’s eating habits: nothing that smells strongly, nothing that causes heartburn… But, don’t forget your vitamins!

Greeks seem to see things a little differently. There was no shortage of advise or concern about my “condition,” it just manifested differently. For instance, I was told not to sit on the cold floor for the baby’s sake, but no one thought twice about the risks of second-hand cigarette smoke. On alcohol, my father-in-law explained to me at one point that I “had” to have the glass of wine, because I was pregnant, no doctor anywhere would say otherwise I didn’t argue with him on the opinions of American doctors.

There was the issue of how much one eats. I was plagued with nausea during both pregnancies, which really turned me off to a lot of foods. There was just no explaining that being pregnant, at that point in time, was why I had to avoid eating too much. (With the morning sickness, getting too full or too hungry would make me horribly nauseous.) Because I ate when I was hungry, and not when I was told, and because I hadn’t really hit the hungry-horrors of the second trimester yet, a few people were deeply concerned that I wasn’t eating enough. On this very topic, my mother-in-law shook a very disapproving finger at my nose, saying, “I don’t understand you!” Another friend kept explaining morning sickness to her Greek husband, but he still would order almost everything on the menu, in the hopes that something would appeal to her. At every meal for their trip, he would end up eating all that food and being just as confused.

Which leads to a third point, that of other people’s opinions. While this may be less of an issue for those traveling for vacation, who won’t be seeing family, pregnancy is a very public thing in Greece. Actually, Greeks generally are less private about a lot of things. Parenting, and by extension, pregnancy, are big ones. Everyone there loves kids, loves babies, and loves to get involved. They will talk to and play with your kids, and they will give advice. A lot of it. If the person advising you is not offensive, and isn’t family, you can just enjoy their interest and not worry about any disagreements. If they are offensive, well, that is up to you. And if they are family… then it gets messy, but you are probably expecting that by now anyway.

A final area of difference that especially effect pregnant women are the bathrooms. If you stay in American-targeted hotels and restaurants, you probably won’t have any surprises in the toilet-department. However, for the rest of us, public bathrooms in Greece can be startling. This was not a huge surprise, because we had been before and I had used public toilets in Greece before. However, with the every-five-minutes that a pregnant bladder can relegate you to, it can be a challenge. If you visit people’s homes, I strongly recommend using their toilets. Private toilets are a far more pleasant an experience. We actually drove from Athens to Serres (about 350 miles apart) on the new “highways”. An important note: the rest-stops are not. If you have to use them, you will certainly survive, but they can be a challenge even to the hearty.

If you will be traveling within Greece, I don’t recommend driving very long distances, unless you are good at peeing in the tall grass. The commercial modes of transportation tend to be less harrowing than those roadside-store toilets. However, I certainly would not be hesitant to travel to Greece while pregnant; it is a learning experience that can really give you a more intimate feel for the culture.

See also Traveling with Kids in Greece

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