Nearly one million pregnant women are put on bed rest each year which amounts to a quatre of all pregnancies .
Sarah Bilston the author of the novel bed rest has been recorded as expressing her belief that if 750, 000 business men were told to lie on their side for months on end with the need to give up work then the powers to be would feel the need to do more research on it . The truth of the matter is that there is limited research on whether it actually helps. But as a pregnant women told that there is a chance that it could stand in the way of their unborn child dieing, or being left with a long list of possible lifelong health conditions due to early prematurity wouldn’t you be prepared to give it a go? I was and still am. I have been on bed rest for 9 weeks now and here is my survival guide..
What is bed rest for?
Bed rest is still prescribed for a number of different conditions including high blood pressure, where lying on one side is thought to help with the blood flow to the baby; women who have experienced premature rupture of their membranes and yet aren’t in labour in the hope that it will stop labour beginning. It is also prescribed for women with a shortened or unusually shaped cervix where the weight of their ever-increasing baby puts pressure on the cervix causing it to open prematurely and trigger early labour. It is thought that if you lie down then at least gravity isn’t working against you too!
This last piece of reasoning worked for me, a registered nurse, even though bed rest is not always recommended anymore, due to it being considered ineffective and risky due to increasing the risk of other complications such as deep vein thrombosis,  in research I have found comforting stories to prove that in this instance I am not wasting my time.
So far, having delivered and lost my son at 21 weeks, with an unusual presentation of any one condition, I have now been carrying my daughter for 31 weeks and the only difference has been aspirin (75mg day) regular Progesterone and bedrest and she is even weighing in (through measurements) as a baby two weeks older than she is! Every day is a blessing, but, I am not here to bore you with my medical history. You can find my contact details above if you wish to contact me directly on this or any matter.
Picture: After 3 weeks I was thankful to receive a portable wheelchair, from family the other side of the country, this means I can make it to the end of the road to the park to lie on the rug for an hour once or twice a week. Even if my daughter only pushes me a few yards. Thank goodness for summer!
What does bed rest mean?
The day my scans told a foreboding picture I was not yet 23 weeks pregnant, but the baby was perfectly healthy and cute, so it was a mixed emotion day. My consultant told me to ‘stay off my feet’ and then wrote to my GP that I am ‘on bed rest for the next 4 weeks’. Over the next week following a trip in the ambulance back to the hospital, a conversation with the consultant on-call who just happened to be the director of fetal medicine and a chat with the midwife on the helpline, I ascertained that this kind of meant whatever I wanted it to mean but..
Can I walk the dog? ‘No’
Can I do any leg or abdominal exercises? ‘No’
Can I go up and down stairs? ‘Best to avoid it.’
Can I work? ‘Best not..’
and..’ just take it easy, keep your feet up, lieing on your side is best, especially the left side and remember no coughing, sneezing or constipation’
Brilliant! Easy?!.. did I mention I make people jump on the other side of Oxford Street when I sneeze and not only do I have irritable bowel syndrome, but I have already had a chest infection!
I bought myself a copy of ‘bed rest’ ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bed-Rest-Sarah-Bilston/ ) and found it satisfying to escape in a world of fiction where the main character wasn’t actually going anywhere!
‘What to expect’ divides bed rest into four different categories.
Scheduled resting: Lie with your feet up, or having a nap, for perhaps 2 hours a day, or restrict your activities such as exercise, stair climbing, walking or standing. I had been on this for my whole pregnancy anyway!
Modified bed rest: No working, driving, household chores, but you can split your day between the bed and the couch while keeping going up and down the stairs to a minimum. A quick shower or stop to make a sandwich should be ok.
Strict bed rest: To be horizontal all day except for trips to the loo. No stairs at all, so pick a floor and stay there! You will need your partner or family to stock your bedside with water, snacks and lunch too.
Hospital bed rest: This is if you need constant monitoring and IV drugs because labour has already begun and the aim is to stall it. The bed may even be set at a feet up position.
All of these may not stop you doing ankle rotations or toe wiggles every hour or two. I also recommend arm exercises and stretches, but your doctor can advice you on this. It may also make you feel more comfortable if you wear flight socks or TED stockings to improve your circulation.
Some possible emotions experienced during bed rest
Fear for your un born child, anticipation, frustration at the mess around you, low self worth at not being able to contribute as much to family life, boredom, loneliness, disappointment at friends, jealousy of your partner continuing their life, panic, excitement as each week passes, helplessness, fear that you are not good enough, or supposed to be a mother, contentment, anxiety about money, anger at having to take maternity pay 11 weeks early, useless, pride at growing a baby, feeling out of control, happy to notice every baby movement without distraction, increased bonding with baby, frustration at not knowing what size baby things to get, annoyance at comments of others, feeling a mess as your hair grows out and your eye brows take over your face and the clothes you buy are never perfect as you bought them all on-line! frustration at not being able to chose your clothes for the day and at the person who choses them for you not getting it right and feeling dirty or greasy from washes at a sink and no bathroom visits. Upset at side effects from inactivity, or medication taking such as nerve damage or migraines.
Top 5 tips for survival
1) What can you do?
Ask your consultant detailed questions based on your life’s activities to ascertain what they recommend you can or can’t do. The information won’t necessarily be free-flowing otherwise.
2) Sort out your finances.
If you are not entitled to Statutory sick pay from your employer then you may be entitled to employment support allowance. This is also paid to people who have made national insurance contributions through being self-employed. https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/overview
If you at first get turned down, as I did, then rebuke this especially if like myself you have been employed in some way since the first day you could be employed! Mistakes seem to be common.
If you have been on bed rest for more than three months and are unable to prepare a main meal for yourself then you may be entitled to Disability Living allowance which is a non means tested allowance. The likely hood would be that you would only receive the lowest care bracket of £21 a week and only whilst still in your own residence. They don’t take into account any help that you may need with cleaning the house, or getting to appointments. You can find more information at https://www.gov.uk/dla-disability-living-allowance-benefit/overview
Ensure you apply for a maternity exemption certificate, so that your partner or friend can collect any prescriptions with your card for you for free. The form can be collected from a chemist and needs to be signed by a member of your maternity team. The card you are sent in the post lasts throughout pregnancy and for the first year of your child’s life, and to the same date if they are born premature.
Apply for maternity pay or maternity allowance as soon as you have been pregnant for 26 weeks. You will find that, if receiving any form of sick pay or employment support allowance, you will probably have to start maternity pay 11 weeks before the baby is due. If you have been paid sick pay past this date then they will do some calculations and you will still be started on maternity pay in arrears and this may become confusing and disappointing.
Remember this means you will have to go back to work or put in a claim for job seekers allowance when your baby is only six months old instead of nine months old! Obviously not ideal if they are born premature.
3) Rely on yourself for entertainment
It is all very well thinking that you can turn your bedroom into a scene from ‘Greece’ with your friends sat round in pyjamas doing your make up for you. But, you are forgetting how busy your life was before you got ‘bed rested’. From research I have discovered it is more usual to not really be visited by anyone! Apart from anything else daytime visits can usually only be done by people off work and those people often have young children. Young children often have coughs and runny noses and your immune system is low and no one wants you to get a cold!
Apart from recommending you get dressed every day to give yourself some routine. I can’t tell you what to do, I don’t know you, but whether you decide to work from home, catch up on your reading, or learn to knit remember that some days you won’t want to do anything but sleep and watch television! Why not! With possible hormone treatment and steroids as well as more than the average pregnancy complications your body is under a lot of stress. So be easy on yourself!
As a note from a creative type, don’t be surprised if you have no inclination to finish that novel or sculpture you have been itching for time to finish. It is hard to submerge yourself in a different emotion or passion when you are worried about you and your babies future. It is also hard to do those things lieing on your side!
If you find yourself following blogs on-line then why not keep them altogether with http://www.bloglovin.com/
4) Do some relaxation techniques in the afternoon.
My personal preference is hypnotherapy CD’s. I have found ones that also prepares you for the birth and helps you bond with the baby. The box of 4 Cd’s has received 5 star reviews from lots of parents and I for one have experienced a complete decrease in negative emotion since they arrived in the post. I am even eating healthier!
Howell, M- Natal hypnotherapy programme: A self-hypnosis CD Programme for a better pregnancy and birth
5) Get a part-time housekeeper
This may seem like a unnecessary expense, but don’t forget all that money you are saving on going out, shopping or drinking. Your partner did not fall in love with an invalid. They do not want to come home from a busy day at work to fetch and carry for you and then clean the house to the standard of someone who has nothing better to do than sit and stare at the dust accumulating and deliberately annoying!
With support you will not only be happier, but also have someone to talk to at intervals in the week; your partner will be happier and you may even be relaxed enough to let them go out and enjoy themselves without you! Which in turn will lighten the mood in the house further and give you something to talk about!
There are many websites on-line, but I recommend http://www.uk.care.com where you will have to pay for a months subscription, approx £10. The website then reminds you before they take any more money out making it easy to cancel the subscription.
The housekeepers generally charge £8/hour and in this climate most drop the fees on their profile page to this when you contact them. I was contacted by 28 people on posting my advert and interviewed 6. I made it clear that I was on bed rest and could go into labour any day and as a result I have actually found someone who has been on bed rest themselves! Applicants often had experience in homes for the elderly or disabled and hotels. On average all applicants seemed happy to work for a minimum of 2 hours and were happy to do anything from walking dogs to cleaning toilets! If you chose wisely it wont matter if you are in pain, or asleep when she arrives you will still feel relaxed.
If you don’t feel able to get a housekeeper then do take help when it is offered by friends. Ask them to whiz round with the hoover or go to the shop for you. This will take some pressure of your partner, but it may make you feel more guilty if you are more used to partying with friends than watching them hoover. Family members can be invaluable too and shouldn’t come with your self-inflicted guilt, as don’t forget they want a healthy niece, nephew or grandson as much as you do, and so will probably be willing to pop round and stay however messy the house is to help.
I hope you have found this information helpful. A lot of websites out there have been started by American parents to be, or organisations and although helpful I have tried to give information aimed towards UK mothers to be. Where ever you are in the world if you have a story to share then please do comment here and support the women on their side with pressure areas on their ears!
1) Murkoff, H (2009) What to expect when you’re expecting: 4th edition London: Simon and Schuster UK
2) Davids, A (2013) Bed rest is nothing like it sonds [www] http://www.KeepEmCooking.com 5th May 2013
3) Tommy’s (2012) Having a premature baby. free book. see website http://www.tommys.org
- Bed Rest Guru & Her Bed Rest Thoughts (lasyoneart.wordpress.com)
- Bed Rest is Boring (myoldeggs.wordpress.com)
- Inspiration from bed rest (raisingjoneses.wordpress.com)
- Following Your Gut and Challenging Your Doctors (mountainfamilyadventures.wordpress.com)
- Twins (surrogatealternatives.wordpress.com)
- This is Real Life…. A pregnant girls rant. (chandlerpower.wordpress.com)
- Incompetent cervix during pregnancy – Follow careful procedure to overcome (fondfamily.com)