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When the Doctor Prescribes Bed Rest

If you're pregnant and your doctor has just prescribed bed rest, don't let this alarm you.  This has become a common prescription since bed rest will help to alleviate some complications that often appear during pregnancy.  The type and amount of rest the doctor recommends could vary; it could be anything from periodic rest at home to complete bed rest under hospital monitoring. 

Some women will be asked to agree to bed rest for most of the pregnancy, while most will only be asked to rest for a short period of time.  So just what causes a doctor to prescribe bed rest? There are several reasons.

  • Hypertension (eclampsia or preeclampsia)
  • Cervical effacement
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Bleeding from vaginal area
  • Premature labor
  • Twins or other multiples
  • Poor development of the fetus
  • Previous history of premature birth, pregnancy loss, or stillbirth
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Placenta previa, placenta accreta, or placental abruption.

If any of these conditions are diagnosed, the doctor will often decide what best will help with the pregnancy.  It helps because it allows the body the time and opportunity to normalize itself.  For instance, if a woman has hypertension, the rest will allow the woman to lower her stress level and her blood pressure in the process. 

Likewise many of the conditions above can be alleviated if the pregnant woman stops much work, lifting or exercise, and so the doctor might prescribe bed rest.  And finally, often a physician will determine that bed rest will help to increase the amount of blood reaching the placenta.

If your doctor does prescribe bed rest, you will likely wonder about the best position. This will depend on what condition the doctor has diagnosed, so it's usually best to ask him / her for a recommendation.  In most situations, they will recommend that you lie on your side, bending your hips or knees. Sometimes they'll also suggest that you keep a pillow separating your knees, mostly for comfort.  Another position that is sometimes suggested is for the woman to lie on her back, propped by pillows, or even to lie on the back, elevating her legs or hips higher than the shoulders.

You need to be prepared for the fact that spending a lot of time in bed will cause some discomfort, such as aching joints and reduced blood circulation.  You can alleviate this by changing sides periodically to relieve some pressure and stimulate the muscles.  

There are a few exercises that, with your doctor's permission, might be helpful.  These include pressing feet and hands against the bed, squeezing a stress ball, turning feet and arms in circles, and tensing your leg and arm muscles.  Don't use your abdomen when doing any exercises, however and again, never begin any exercise program until asking your doctor about it.

During your period of bed rest, there are several activities you must avoid altogether, and others that you must keep to a minimum.  You should discuss all of these activities with your doctor and ask his / her opinion if you should completely eliminate them or just reduce them. They include: chores, walking, cooking, bathing, showering, driving, exercise, sex.

Guidelines for Getting Through an Extended Period of Bed rest:

  • Follow a regular, daily routine that becomes familiar to you.  You should try to schedule your day ahead of time.
  • Use this time to stay or get connected with friends.  You can phone them or invite them to visit you.
  • This is a good time to take care of those "easy" chores you've been wanting to tackle, such as balancing the checkbook, organizing your picture albums, making some additions and deletions in your address books, write some letters, and so on.
  • Get ready for the baby. This is an excellent time to read  books and magazine articles about all the things you'll need for the new baby, and to learn new parenting skills.  Learn about breastfeeding, immunizations, what clothing will cost--everything that could help you become a  better mom.
  • Let those who love you help.  Don't be afraid to ask friends and family to help with chores that you cannot do as long as you're bed-ridden. Most will be delighted you asked.
  • Before you get in bed that first day, make sure you have near you, within arm's reach, all the things you know you'll need, such as books, magazines, telephone, phone book, address book, comb, brush, mirror, pencils or pens and paper, remote controls, laptop computer, and cosmetic supplies.

    By following all of these suggestions, your period of bed-rest can actually become an exciting and productive time for becoming a better parent.
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