I was working full-time, had recently moved into a new home, and unsuspectingly went in for my monthly pregnancy appointment with my OB. Suddenly my blood pressure was too high, there was protein in my urine, and I was on bed rest for preeclampsia. It is frightening to hear your physician tell you that for the health of you and your unborn baby that you need to stay off of your feet and lie down on your left side for at least 20 out of 24 hours each day. Then reality sets in and you wonder – how will my baby and I survive bed rest?
How to Handle Bed Rest
While each pregnancy and recommendation of bed rest is different, if you are prescribed bed rest or modified bed rest at home, there are several things you can do to make sure that your pregnancy is as healthy as possible.
Get the Facts from Your Physician
Before you leave your doctor’s office, make sure you ask as many questions as possible, but don’t hesitate to call with more once you get home. Ask questions about the following:
- How many hours each day do I need to spend lying down? Does my prone position matter? (i.e. I had to be on my left side for blood pressure benefits.)
- What minimal exercises can I do to help prevent blood clots from forming (a risk from remaining in one position too long)?
- If my symptoms or condition improves, will my bed rest be modified or lifted?
- Can I shower, bathe, and use the bathroom as usual?
- Can I drive?
- Are there any light household chores I can do? (folding laundry, cooking meals, etc.)
- Do I have restrictions on lifting weight?
- What about sex? (the burning question from every husband…)
- And any other question you have
Create a Bed Rest Haven
Bed rest, especially when it is unexpected, can take the wind out of your pregnancy excitement sails. I was envisioning the last months of my pregnancy shopping for baby items, preparing the nursery, and walking throughout my new neighborhood to encourage limber muscles for labor. You might feel emotionally deflated, scared, or frustrated. Creating a haven for your period of rest will go a long way to helping you through the feeling of being frozen in time and helpless.
Rally the troops – Call your mom, your girlfriends, and your neighbors and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The reality is that you may be on bed rest until you deliver this child and the more you can be prepared through the help of others, the better off you and baby will be. You can assign friends and family to do some of the jobs you know need to be completed.
Gather supplies (or have someone do this for you) – Take a basket or plastic tote and use it as your own bed rest emergency kit. Stock it with things like
- lip balm
- cell phone (and charger)
- iPod or other music source
- hand sanitizer and wet wipes
- prenatal vitamins
- notepads and paper
- baby book – great time to start filling in some of these memories you are experiencing
- books and magazines
- hair brush and basic makeup to make yourself feel like you are still doing your normal routine
- camera (why not take a few snapshots from the view of the bed to include in the baby book?)
- mini-toothbrushes (great to refresh your mouth after an afternoon nap)
Have your husband or friend situate a high table near your new resting perch. Load the top of it with a laptop, a small cooler with water bottles and healthy snacks, and a stack of extra pillows and blankets.
Stay connected – Bed rest is one of those things that immediately takes away your independence and mobility, which is so vital for many women. Remaining connected can help you pass the time, remain emotionally positive, and even be productive.
- Check to see if there is a possibility of telecommuting and using your laptop to work from home. I remember feeling like I was a 3rd grader with a note excusing me from gym class when I had to have my mom deliver my physician’s note to my human resource department to have on file. I wasn’t able to telecommute, but I did keep in contact with coworkers.
- Find a supportive online forum of other moms who can support you emotionally and lift your spirits.
- Invite friends over to watch a movie. I remember my dear friend coming over with a bag of Doritos and a chick flick in the middle of the afternoon – a wonderful respite from the boredom.
- Text, call, and keep in touch with family and friends throughout the day. Write letters (yes, people still do that by hand) – you can even write letters to your unborn baby. I have a letter saved from when I was on emergency bed rest with my son for bleeding during the first trimester. One day he will read my prayers that he live and grow to be a strong person, and of how much I loved him already then.
Stay fit (within reason and under doctor’s strict orders) – Check to see if there are any light exercises you can do such as stretching that will help keep your muscles limber and your body prepared for the rigors of delivery.
Prepare for the baby with the help of online shopping – You can order everything from diapers to car seats online and have them delivered right to your door.
Mark the passage of time – One of the most challenging aspects of bed rest is the feeling that time is jumbled. You nap, you stare out the window, you knit, and you forget if one day moved onto the next. Create a ritual that will help you mark time. Maybe each morning you can look forward to your husband bringing you the paper and OJ, and every evening you get to Skype with your sister. Rituals are comforting and they help keep us on track (and sane).
Keep the faith – Many churches have ministries that will send people to visit parishioners on bed rest or in the hospital. If you are a person of faith, this contact can be especially uplifting.
Bed rest during pregnancy is not the easiest thing in the world, but the patience you must develop in order to survive it prepares you well for the patience you will need as a parent. Now if only my doctor would prescribe bed rest for me from the teenage years…