Woman First

Bedrest Survival Guide

by Martha Wegner

If you are one of the thousands of women who must spend the last weeks, even months, of your pregnancy on bedrest, time can stand painfully still. Here are some tips to get you through the waiting.

In the U.S., 1 in 4 pregnant women experience complications. These can include premature labor, high blood pressure, cervical changes, vaginal bleeding, poor fetal development, placenta complications and gestational diabetes.

For many of these women, doctors will prescribe bedrest, which can mean anything from an hour a day spent on the couch to complete confinement to bed with no bathroom privileges. My own complication was preterm labor — contractions that start too early, for no known reason. To calm the contractions, I was ordered to go home and lie down for the duration of the pregnancy.

No matter what the reason or duration, bedrest can be a stressful time for the new mom-to-be, as well as for the spouse and other children. If you are one of the “chosen ones” and must lie around for a few weeks or months, how do you survive? And if someone you know has been put on bedrest, how can you help?

Information and Support

The Sidelines National Support Network website, www.sidelines.org, offers publications and information on bedrest. The site includes numerous articles on high-risk pregnancy and will match you with a volunteer who has previously experienced a similar pregnancy complication. Your volunteer will support you throughout your pregnancy via e-mail messages or phone calls.

If You Are the Mom
View this as your job. You may have just left the executive suite; you may have just finished your last shift at the restaurant. No matter, your job now is to lie still and let this baby grow.

Let yourself rest. If you can’t get to those things that you’ve always been meaning to do (putting all the pictures in scrapbooks, organizing your recipes), don’t beat yourself up. Let this be a time of rest.

Get and accept help. Call your sister, call your mom. Ask your partner or your mother to delegate household jobs, since you most likely cannot do them from your bed. Call friends that you know will be most helpful. Say “yes” when they offer to cook, to shop, to walk the dog.

Set up a comfortable place. When premature labor forced me to bed for the duration of my pregnancy, one of the most helpful things my husband and sister did was set up a little “bedrest nest” for me. On some makeshift shelves they assembled the telephone, along with my directory, the radio, magazines, a snack and my water bottle.

Set up a schedule. Pretend this is your new work day. I found that if I planned what time I watched a certain television program, listened to a radio show and phoned a friend, my day went by a lot faster and I felt less anxious.

Rent movies. Watch movies you’ve wanted to see. Have a friend take your list to the movie store, or order the movies from an online service like Netflix.

Make yourself presentable. I found that combing my hair and putting on a clean shirt lifted my spirits and I started the day with a positive attitude.

Ask professionals to come to you. My hair stylist was willing to come to my house. Some massage therapists, ministers, manicurists, and decorators will make house calls. Counselors are often willing to talk to you on the phone.

Get childcare. You absolutely cannot take care of children when you are on bedrest. If you don’t have child care, make arrangements or find a babysitter.

If You Are the Support
Don’t Express Envy. You may think that you would love the opportunity to lie in bed for days, but you wouldn’t.

Call. Moms on bedrest can feel isolated. Call daily and relate what is going on.

Ask if if you can visit. Bring over a simple lunch for two during your break.

Set up a meal schedule. Organize friends, family and coworkers to cook dinner for the family. The gift of regular, reliable evening meals is a godsend.

Plan a baby shower. A cancelled baby shower can be a great source of sadness. Reschedule it after the baby’s born or have a “bedside shower.” Either choice works, so ask the mom what she would like.

Assist with projects. During my bedrest, a friend taught me how to cross stitch. It was wonderful having an easy project I could turn to every day.

Martha Wegner is a freelance writer.