Lady in Waiting. Bed rest: harder than it sounds

Heather J. Mills Lady-in-waiting

Some people hear the term bed rest and are instantly envious: the idea of spending the day lounging and having other people do everything for you initially sounds appealing. The reality is that bed rest can be mentally and physically exhausting. Read on for more information and suggestions for keeping the bed rest blues away

One in four pregnancies will be considered ‘high risk’, and bed rest is usually suggested as a precaution. Each woman requires different rest, depending on the condition of her pregnancy

Besides decreasing the risks associated with physical activity, resting in bed also relieves pressure on the cervix. Lying on the side facilitates blood flow to the placenta, so doctors encourage this position. Avoid lying flat on the back, since this affects the blood flow from the vena cava (the major vein that runs from the lower extremities to the heart

There is no set rule about when bed rest will be necessary, though it usually occurs during the second or third trimester. It is common for women to remain on bed rest until the baby is born. This can mean weeks of lying in bed or on the couch

Full bed rest means not moving from bed unless to use the bathroom. Lying in one position and climbing the stairs only once a day is often recommended. Women may have to wear a device around their stomach that records contractions and is constantly monitored by nurses. In some situations, women are hospitalized so medical personnel can closely monitor the pregnancy

In other cases, women may simply have to take it easy around the house and discontinue their job. This is sometimes half-jokingly called “house arrest”, but doctors refer to it as partial bed rest. Leaving the house – unless to go to the doctor’s – is often discouraged

Bed rest is often recommended if:

  • You are carrying multiples
  • You have preclampsia or eclampsia (high blood pressure)
  • You have gestational hypertension
  • You have complications with your cervix (incompetent cervix, cervical effacement)
  • You have complications with your placenta (placenta previa, placental abruption, placenta accreta)
  • Your baby isn’t developing properly
  • You have a history of stillbirth or premature labour, or are at risk of preterm labour
  • You were put on bed rest in a previous pregnancy
  • You have experienced bleeding and/or contractions during your pregnancy

Coping with bed rest

Being in bed for so long can be uncomfortable and isolating. However, there are things you can do to keep boredom at bay, maintain your strength, and keep positive

  • Establish – and stick to – a routine. Something as small as changing from pyjamas into comfy clothes every morning can make a big difference.
  • Get crafty. Learn how to knit or crochet, and make a receiving blanket. Scrapbooks are a great way to display memories and organize photos at the same time.
  • Get organized. Update your address book, or organize loose photos into an album – this will probably be the last time you’ll find to do this for the next few years.
  • Get moving. Do some exercises in bed to retain your muscle tone (ask your doctor for suggestions). Exercising helps blood circulate and keeps your pelvic and upper leg muscles strong for birth.
  • Keep a pregnancy journal. This can be touching and amusing to read years later.
  • Make the best use of available resources. Call old friends, and encourage people to stop by and chat. The internet is also a great way to pass the time. Shop for nursery items, parenting books, even make friends on bed rest posting sites – the opportunities are endless!
  • Read. This is a great opportunity to plow through the books that have been stacking up on your shelf. You can also read baby and parenting books – you’ll be putting it into practice soon enough. A magazine subscription ensures you get your favourite magazine delivered right to you.

Make yourself more comfortable

  • Pamper yourself by getting a masseuse or aesthetician to do a house call.
  • Re-arrange the house so you don’t have to climb stairs, and keep everything you need nearby. A small refrigerator beside the bed stocked with sandwiches and healthy snacks is a good idea, and a TV or laptop on a bedside table can help the hours go by.
  • Test out those baby monitors by using them as walkie talkies. Giving the other receiver to whoever is helping you while you are bedridden means you won’t have to yell when you need something.
  • A body pillow is a great investment – it will support you when you lie on your side.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re going to need it, and people will want to give it! If you are being put on bed rest, ask your doctor about restrictions on cooking, cleaning, driving, exercise, sexual intercourse, and walking.

It is important to obey medical instructions when it comes to bed rest – your doctor wouldn’t put you through this unless it was necessary! And keep in mind that bed rest could be the last rest you get for a while.

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