Pregnant Nomad: The First Trimester

pregnant nomad

Traveling full-time to places you’ve never been tends to instill a sense of (over?)confidence in your ability to handle anything. Sometimes, that confidence is…misplaced. But it’s probably the reason that being a pregnant nomad didn’t strike me as impossible.

So. Am I in over my head? Here’s a quick tally of the last five months:

Countries visited in first five months: 3

Cities: 5

Missed doctor visits or milestones: 0

Mental breakdowns or health scares: 1 (I had one hormonal meltdown when David and I got into a screaming match over what tone of voice a person should use when asking another person to put on their shoes. Luckily, there were no witnesses. Knock on wood, that’s the only time my hormones were literally driving me crazy. Well, I was snappy with my mother for no good reason once, but I’m not sure if that’s hormones or our normal tradition of one fight per visit. The pregnancy has been completely normal so far, which is a huge blessing.)

Sicknesses: 9 (My own six colds due to this suppressed immune system, and the three-ish of these that David and Spencer caught too. Don’t ask me to count the number of family members I infected. If I’d been better about healthy eating and Vitamin C, I’m sure this number would be lower.)

Pregnant Nomad: First Trimester

If you read our last post announcing our pregnant nomad series, you know that we got the positive OTC test in September, in Playa del Carmen. Our first step, other than to research where we would have the baby, was to find a doctor. This is surprisingly easy. In every foreign, non-English speaking city we’ve visited, we’ve found an active and helpful Facebook group for expats.

I searched our Playa group for previously asked questions about doctors, and found a female, English speaking OBGYN who was recommended by several women. I called the hospital, and in my halting Spanish, made an appointment. DONE.

I’ve mentioned before that medical care has been easier for us outside of the U.S. than in. In South Africa, Croatia, and Thailand, (every place we’ve seen doctors), we could make appointments quickly, with no wait, for low cost and great service. No primary care provider, no insurance. In this, Playa was no different.

First Appointment

In my first appointment with the wonderful Dra. Mariel Pliega, I had an intake, standard blood pressure and weight measurements, ultrasound and print-out of indecipherable images all in about 40 minutes for about 800 pesos, or $38. Spencer was with me, and the doctora had crayons for him to draw with while she and I talked. She went over the standard pregnancy protocol (no smoking, no alcohol, no drugs? Yes, vitamins? Any complications in the past? Blood type?) etc. I can’t tell you if this is different from the US system since I’ve never been pregnant there, but it was about the same as our experience in Luxembourg, with less time spent in the waiting room.

I was confused about which appointments I was supposed to make next, for when. I managed to sort these out at the front desk and schedule standard blood work, and another more thorough ultrasound for a few weeks hence. My strategy was to start in Spanish, fail miserably, and continue butchering the language until the poor person behind the desk couldn’t take it anymore and spoke to me in English. (Don’t worry, my Spanish improves greatly in the next installment, in which I will explain what it’s like to have an appointment in a city where zero English is spoken.)

The Baby’s Sex

I promised to tell you in this post, and it feels cruel to keep you waiting any longer! A strange thing happened when I went in for an ultrasound at 13 weeks. It was my second appointment. Dra Pliego ordered this ultrasound with another doctor in the Hospital clinic, and I wasn’t sure why I needed another one so soon. She told me that this would be a more in-depth ultrasound, in which developmental measurements would be taken.

We showed up to our appointment on a Saturday, and were led into a different area of the clinic where we were met by a very stern doctor who bore an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Bean. Speaking to us in fluent English, he proceeded with the ultrasound and in the middle of it, turned to us and asked if we’d like to know the sex. We said, “Oh wow…sure.”

“It’s a girl,” he said gravely, and returned to the screen.

For the last three months and change, we’ve been wondering about this doctor’s skillz. I’ve just had my five month ultrasound in Guanajuato, and…he was right! IT’S A GIRL!!!!!! Looks like we’re going to have one of each 🙂 Yay! Commence cute clothes buying!!

Morning sickness and other symptoms?

Manageable. I was nauseated for the whole first three months, much worse than with Spencer. I should have been eating crackers the whole time–it was only when my stomach wasn’t full that I felt sick.

The only really trying part of the pregnancy has been my constant cold. After a while, I forgot what it was like to be able to sleep with my mouth closed. Also, pregnant women can’t take a lot of the OTC medications you normies can. Not fun, but it would have sucked anywhere. Being in Mexico didn’t make it worse–living in a warm climate where I could continue to walk everywhere helped the colds pass much more quickly than in the frigid north of the U.S., where I sat on the couch all day and grossed everyone out with my nose sounds.

Pregnant Nomad: Mishaps

We’ve had a few.

  1. My doctor said I needed a Sequenom. I’d never heard of it, so I Googled and found out that it’s a genetic test to help determine whether your baby is at risk for anything due to genetic factors. As I was scheduling the test with the referring doctor, I happened to ask how much it would cost. 1200, she said. “Okay great, 1200 pesos?” “No, US dollars,” the Sequenom doctor replied. If I’d done a bit more research, I would have discovered that the Sequenom is actually a full genetic sequencing. Glad I asked. The conversation after that was very short and awkward. We did not get the test, which cost what we were expecting to pay for the whole delivery.
  2. A nurse thought I was trying to steal from the hospital. Yeah…I went in on a Saturday for the first blood work order, and afterward, started to leave the clinic. At my previous appointments, the doctor gave me a receipt that I took to the caja (payment desk) to pay. With the bloodwork, no such paper. The technician said “You can pick up the results next Saturday,” and bid me good day. So I assumed that I was supposed to pay when I came back to pick up the results. Nope! A nurse who would also have made a fantastic shushing librarian or an overbearing secretary chased me into the parking lot. Apparently, no matter what appointment you have, afterward you give your name to the lady at the caja, and she will procure a bill. Lesson learned.

Pregnant Nomad: Costs and Summary

  • Two doctor appointments including sonograms in Playa: 721 pesos each, or $69.22 total
  • Special ultrasound in which we found out the sex, plus a CD of our pictures: 571 pesos, or $27.40
  • Standard bloodwork (toxoplasmosis, HIV, creatine, etc): 1,712 pesos, or $82.26
  • Two bottles of prenatal vitamins, about $15 total, for a grand total of $193.88

In the next installment of Pregnant Nomad, I jump into the deep end in Guanajuato. The expat community here is smaller and tends to be an older demographic, so there are fewer recommendations for obstetricians. Also, no English spoken! Also look forward to our first taste of life here in Guanajuato.


  • Sounds like Mexico is a good place to give birth! We are also expecting. Being in czech republic as s nomad we found out we needed a public health insurance to get proper maternity care. We decided to stay until the baby is born as it seems very good here now i got a business set up to be able to get the insurance and just got it last week..we have been paying privately so far. Costs here have been similar to yours. Good luck to your pregnancy. I will follow and will write soon about our too Nomad babies add a completely different dimension to travelling. 🙂

    • Sarah B says:

      Congratulations Caroline!! It’s good to know that the costs are similar–I hope you’ve had a good experience so far with your doctor(s). We will be thinking of you and your family, and looking forward to anything you share about the experience. You’re right, the baby adds a completely new dimension 🙂 Hope you’re feeling well!

  • Rudi says:

    Congratulation to you Sarah!

    Rudi & the Bringtown’s

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