• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Tips for women travellers

women travellers

Contrary to popular opinion, world travel and exploration have never been the sole prerogative of men.  There have been some well-known intrepid women travelers who have traveled to the far corners of the earth.  How they overcame the social, moral and religious objections to their gender is left to the modern woman to imagine but some of these objections still exist today at various levels in different countries.

Women travelers have their own peculiarities due to the age-old problem of physiology which includes menstruation, contraception, pregnancy, breastfeeding, traveling with children and ‘personal safety’ are all too present.

Apart from all necessary basic steps a traveler must take before travel, a woman must seek travel advice on, menstruation, personal hygiene, fluid retention, contraception, pregnancy, traveling with children, personal safety and security.

If you are going to a country where medical facilities are poor or not easily accessible, it is advisable to have a gynecological check-up at least 6 weeks before departure.  If you have had a previous gynecological problem, you should have a clear understanding of the problem and carry a written note of the problem.

Pregnant women and breastfeeding women are in an altered state of health that requires practical consideration prior to travel. If possible delay your trip or plan carefully.

Emotional upset, exhaustion and traveling through different time zones can all contribute to an upset in the menstrual pattern.  Irregular menstruation is a very common problem affecting women travelers. Excessive exercise and the stress of travel may cause infrequent periods.  If this is the case, it may lead to confusion over the timing of oral contraception and great anxiety of unplanned pregnancy.  Dysmenorrhoea (Painful menstruation) may also be aggravated by travel.

Ask your doctor about oral contraception which may be used to suppress menstruation if the need arises.  This is achieved by taking the pill continuously without the usual seven day break.  It is advisable to take extra packs and note that Biphasic and triphasic pills do not work.  Personal hygiene is important.  Though Tampons and Sanitary towels are becoming more common in developing countries, they are still scarce luxuries in some places.  Cultural and religious attitudes exist in some countries towards menstruation.  Women may be forbidden to enter places of worship and even to touch or walk near food during their periods.

To avoid such situations, discreet use of and disposal of sanitary towels and tampons is advisable. During prolonged journeys on buses, trains and planes, the female bladder can be under considerable stress due to lack of or infrequency of ‘comfort stops’.  In an inhospitable environment if you must squat over a hole in the floor or behind a bush, squat high to avoid bites.  Women are tempted not to drink ‘too much’ which can cause problems of dehydration.  Drink small amounts of fluid frequently and avoid alcohol.

For remote travel like expeditions where water is rationed, lack of skin cleansing, sweating and inappropriate clothing can encourage chaffing, open sores and monilial (fungal) infections.  Along with sports like water sports (e.g. water skiing) the female anatomy may be subject to risk of foreign body penetration and inrush of contaminated water resulting in ascending vaginal infections.

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It may be advisable to take a supply of antibiotics and treatment for fungal infections more so if you have suffered similar ailments in the past. Fluid retention arises mainly during inactivity and prolonged sitting during long journeys.

Postural Oedema (swelling of the feet and legs) arises, especially in older women with poor venous circulation.  The use of a simple diuretic may help.  Exercise where possible.  Little walkabouts or exercise while sitting e.g. rotating ankles, flexing muscles in the arms and legs etc, can reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) by improving circulation.

Women using contraceptive patches, contraceptive vaginal rings oral or injectable depot contraceptives have an increased risk of DVT during travel involving long periods of immobility so exercise during the journey. Dress for comfort rather than fashion.  Loose-fitting skirts and trousers allow for waist expansion, and comfortable shoes will prevent the struggle to replace or force on tight shoes at the end of the journey.  For the avoidance of disease and pregnancy, especially for those women who plan to be sexually active, please consult your Doctor for the best form of contraception for you.


Adeniyi Bukola,

Consultant Family Physician and Travel Medicine Physician

Q –Life Family Clinic

[email protected].