Short Breaks: Down to the Mediterranean with a bump

A break in Cyprus is just what pregnant Elizabeth Heathcote needs. But is it worth the risk?

Call me naive but it never occurred to me that taking a holiday while I was pregnant would be an issue. I wasn't proposing to go anywhere disease-ridden after all - just a couple of weeks in package-tour Cyprus, which in May is the perfect temperature for the Spacehopper formerly known as a woman.

Call me naive but it never occurred to me that taking a holiday while I was pregnant would be an issue. I wasn't proposing to go anywhere disease-ridden after all - just a couple of weeks in package-tour Cyprus, which in May is the perfect temperature for the Spacehopper formerly known as a woman.

My mother's gasps should have warned me. "You're never going to fly!"

"It's not far ..."

"My God! What do you want? A suntan or a baby?"

I would be 26 weeks pregnant when I headed out. The books say this is a great time to travel, between the miscarriage-prone first three months and the whale-like last three, but a seed of anxiety had been planted. I tried to laugh it off with friends, but instead of chuckling along they hummed and haaed and asked if I'd thought about Cornwall. So I rang Dr Richard Dawood, travel specialist at Fleet Street Clinic and master of making things possible.

"The answer is that, yes, of course you can travel but you have to ask yourself, is it sensible?" he says. "What if things go wrong? What sort of local medical care is there? I used to be very cavalier before I had my own family but now ..." He pauses. "How old are you?"

Thirty-nine, I tell him

"Hmm, not many more chances. It's up to you, of course, but ideally you would have gone before 24 weeks. If you deliver now the baby could survive, but only with intensive care."

We are talking Cyprus, I point out.

"Hmm, well there's the British Military Hospital and I doubt they'd turn away a Brit in trouble ... just make sure you get the blessing of your obstetrician, good insurance and have a plan in case things go wrong."

I consider cancelling. But the same friends now tell me that would be absurd. I get on the internet and discover that a) Cypriot women regularly give birth without incident in Cypriot hospitals and b) the biggest danger to my and the baby's health is pre-eclampsia, a blood-pressure condition of which I have no symptoms. Obviously there is no hope of getting my obstetrician's blessing (who on the NHS has ever seen an obstetrician?) but I have a scan that shows my risk of early labour is less than 1 per cent. I also pay several visits to my GP who patiently repeats that yes, I am still fit to travel. I track down an insurer prepared to take me on (the Post Office) and buy a Braun blood-pressure monitor (perfect for alarmists, £69).

And so it is that by the time I've packed my hospital notes and boarded the plane, I am shattered. Total delight then to discover that having informed Britannia of my condition, I have been allocated a special-needs seat (extra legroom!). Even more delight when we arrive at the Anassa, a five-star spa in an idyllic setting near the small village of Polis. If ever there is a time to throw money at holiday accommodation, pregnancy is it. I have never felt less sociable, less capable of dealing with minor irritations or more in need of a cushioned sun-bed high enough to roll off. The Anassa, reputed to be the best hotel in Cyprus, fits the bill nicely - a sanctuary of marbled luxury with the added benefit of a mum-to-be pamper package at the spa (£75).

I spend day one being massaged, exfoliated, and having my feet seen to (miraculously they know I can't reach them) and day two lying by the pool. I speak only once, when the bleary-eyed mother of a newborn is moved to approach me. "I wish I'd come on holiday when I was at your stage," she says with feeling, "but my doctor warned me off." I say I know how she feels and nod off.

Our budget doesn't stretch to 10 days of this so we move on to the Almyra in Paphos. Recently revamped into Habitat-catalogue grooviness, the Almyra (the old Paphos Beach Hotel) is perfect. We have a bungalow on the seafront (I emphasise again, money is well spent on this holiday) with a private lawn and daybeds with real mattresses. Pool and breakfast are a short stroll through the gardens and the general hospital just streets away. Finally I relax.

We hire a car. Paphos houses the island's most spectacular sites (Tombs of the Kings, the Mosaics) but we go in search of undeveloped Cyprus. We start at Nicosia - the last divided city in the world - and head for the border. The UN checkpoint here is the easiest place to cross to the Turkish north of the island, albeit on foot only. The border is basically open now but still it is eerie to skirt the bullet-pocked Ledra Palace Hotel in no man's land, and plain weird to move as abruptly from a full-on modern city to crumbling back-streets lined with Escort MK1s and artisans working on their doorsteps. We eat cheap kebabs and stroll round an empty market that seems to specialise in bargain pashminas. As we cross back over, my headscarf and bump draw the attention of a Republican soldier who pulls us out of the queue. Does he suspect me of being a health tourist from the other side, intent on scrounging a bed on the sparkling maternity wards of the south? I'm not waiting to find out. I wave my British passport and pass by with first-world immunity.

We explore the remote beaches of the extreme west. The march of the time-shares is relentless, but if you are prepared to go off-road, you can still find vast stretches of undeveloped beach, a shambolic taverna here and there, nothing but goats to jostle for a spot (Lara Beach and north). We drive back through the Troodos mountains, developed into semi-Alpine tweeness in the guidebook east but truly remote in the west. We pass for miles along wooded valleys without spotting another soul, sometimes along the rough tracks that make this such stunning hiking country.

My partner laughs about how they tell you to drive down roads like this to induce labour, and only realises too late what he has done. We cover the last 20km at 5km an hour.

Installed back on my day bed, the baby kicking happily, I realise I haven't checked my blood pressure for days. I don't bother to get up.

Travelling for two

Contrary to popular myth, flying does not increase your chance of miscarriage, but do not travel on an unpressurised aircraft (the little ones) because oxygen levels are too low. Each airline has a different limit on how late they will carry you and some may require a doctor's letter, so check in advance. There is no danger - they just don't want to have to divert if you go into labour. Pregnant women have an increased risk of deep-vein thrombosis. Wear flight socks (Scholl, £14.99, chemists) and move around regularly.

Think very carefully about exotic destinations. It is possible to have some vaccinations when you are pregnant but do you really want to? Especially avoid malarial areas. Strong mosquito repellants are off the menu and although some malaria pills are safe, none offer complete protection. Pregnant women receive four times as many mosquito bites as other people, and your immune system will be compromised. Malaria, like most tropical diseases, is dangerous for your unborn child.

Bear in mind that lots of everyday medicines, such as antihistamines, insect repellents and aspirin, should not be used.

Use very high factor sunscreen. Pregnant skin is prone to patchy darkening (chloasma) which is exacerbated by exposure to the sun. Not a good look.

Be extra careful about food. Remember you are more vulnerable to bugs, and the consequences are more serious. And lay off the feta.

Pregnancies can and do go wrong. Check out the standard of health facilities in advance, don't stray too far from a hospital and always carry your notes. Do not even think about travelling without health insurance. Most high street insurers will not touch pregnant women. Try the Post Office (0800-169 9999).

GIVE ME THE FACTS

How to get there

Elizabeth Heathcote travelled as a guest of Abercrombie & Kent (0845-0700 612; www.abercrombiekent.co.uk). Seven nights at the Anassa, in a studio suite costs from £1,680 per person, based on two sharing. Seven nights at the Almyra, staying in a garden view room, costs from £895 per person, based on two sharing. Both prices include return flights from London, transfers and b&b accommodation.

For more information

Cyprus Tourist Board (020-7569 8800; www.visitcyprus.org.cy).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor