Anyone who has ever been on long-term bed rest knows that, although it can be difficult and depressing, it is essential to the health and safety of your unborn baby. Most moms-to-be don't anticipate serious pregnancy complications and, therefore, don't even consider planning for bed rest. Your doctor understands that it's a big shock to learn that you'll be spending the next several weeks lying in a hospital bed. Because of this, there are some important things your OB-GYN wants you to know about being on bed rest while pregnant.
Bed rest is meant to prolong a pregnancy so that your baby gets the best shot at a healthy life. In a recent interview with Romper, Dr. Jill Hechtman, the Medical Director at Tampa Obstetrics, says the most common conditions in which pregnant women are put on bed rest are preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM), which is when your water breaks prior to 37 weeks; placenta previa, which is when your placenta covers the opening in your cervix; vasa previa which is when fetal blood vessels from the placenta or umbilical cord cross the entrance to the birth canal; severe preeclampsia which is marked by high blood pressure; and a shortened cervix which can cause preterm labor.
Pregnancy complications are usually unpredictable, and can happen after one or more typical pregnancies. If you have been put on bed rest because of complications, here are some more things your OB-GYN wants you to know.
1. A Hospital Stay Is Likely
If your doctor prescribes bed rest, you will most likely be admitted into the hospital. According to Hechtman, many obstetricians are shying away from home bed rest. She explains that studies show that for some conditions, bed rest does not prolong the pregnancy, and in fact can increase the mothers risk of thromboembolism (a DVT or pulmonary embolus).
2. You May Not Be Able To Leave Your Bed At All
Depending on the seriousness of your condition, your doctor may not allow you to leave your hospital bed at all. In that case, you will have to use a bed pan to go to the bathroom. According to Hechtman, some doctors may allow the use of a bedside commode, and moms-to-be who are on modified bed rest may be able to walk to or be wheeled to the bathroom. Modified bed rest patients may occasionally be wheeled outside to get fresh air.
3. Blood Clots Are A Risk
As Dr. Kenneth Harper wrote for the Vein Specialists of the South, periods of inactivity can lead to blood clots in the legs, especially for pregnant women who are at an increased risk due to hormonal changes. Pregnancy increases the blood's ability to clot quickly in preparation for labor and delivery. Hechtman tells Romper that, in order to prevent blood clots, your doctor may order a sequential compression device that massages your calves and increases your blood flow. You may also be put on a blood thinner if necessary.
4. Mental Health Services Are Available
Being on bed rest can be emotionally trying for a mom-to-be. This is the time you imagined that you would be decorating the nursery or spending quality time with your older children or spouse. Hechtman says that the nursing staff on high risk units are very talented at recognizing signs of depression and can pass this information along to your doctor who may order psychiatric/psychology services. Nurses also play a large role in being supportive and helping to keep your chin up.
5. Take Advantage Of Community Support Services
Some hospitals and community organizations are beginning to offer spa, nail, and hair services to uplift the spirits of hospital patients. In Florida, the nonprofit organization High Risk Hope takes it a step further, providing support and encouragement specifically to women on long-term hospital bed rest and those with premature infants in the NICU. Hechtman is a huge fan of these kinds of organizations, and High Risk Hope, in particular. She says:
"Being on bed rest is very difficult and can be depressing. Sometimes there are childcare issues, social issues, etc., that make it even harder. High Risk Hope delivers what I describe as 'creature comforts' and items to make you feel better when in the hospital. For some, they may not have the money to purchase these items, and it truly does lift spirits".
In an interview with Romper, founder of High Risk Hope Heather Barrow says that her organization delivers bed rest baskets that include everything a mom needs to survive her long-term hospital stay. The baskets include essentials such a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, bar soap, lotion, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and adult body wipes for patients without shower privileges. They also provide soft blankets and socks, blank thank you notes to encourage gratitude, bed rest and NICU survival guides, and a journal and pen to document their stay. Additionally, High Risk Hope includes their yearly baby calendar that spotlights healthy babies who have made the journey from hospital to home, to give moms that extra bit of hope.
"While most may see these care packages as simply a wonderful gift, High Risk Hope knows our volunteers are also delivering hope to these families that they too will leave the hospital with a healthy baby," Barrow says.
6. Family Support & A Positive Attitude Are Essential
Hechtman recommends that families and friends do as much as they can to help out a mom on bed rest. They should visit frequently, give mom one-on-one time with her kids, and offer to babysit so that mom and her spouse can have some alone time to talk and hang out.
Barrow, who has experience hospital bed rest tells Romper:
"Once the initial shock and emotional devastation that accompany a serious pregnancy complication subside, take charge and develop a hospital bed rest survival plan that is unique to you and your baby, and remember it may change as your pregnancy progresses. A positive attitude is crucial during this difficult time and will make a difference in your hospital stay and daily interactions with friends, family, doctors, nurses, and hospital staff. The only thing you can control on hospital bed rest is your attitude. Make the choice every day to focus on the positives, remain optimistic, and show gratitude to others for the support they give you during your stay."
7. Every 24 Hours Is A Miracle
Bed rest is meant to prolong a high risk pregnancy, so the longer you can stick it out, the less risk for your baby. Hechtman says:
"I tell all my patients that 'every 24 hours is a miracle.' When you are feeling sad, frustrated and just 'over it' remember that the longer we can prolong your pregnancy, the better."
Barrow agrees and has seen firsthand that every single minute, hour, and day that you remain pregnant on hospital bed rest is a victory and will help your baby grow stronger.