These days, it’s more common for moms-to-be to be breathing deeply into a downward dog in prenatal yoga class than taking it easy at home with their feet up. But an estimated 20 percent of expectant mothers are still put on bed rest during their pregnancies, despite evidence that it may do more harm than good.
"The ladies I met online while on bed rest were like virtual nurses!”
- Casey Mclendon, Kannapolis, N.C.
When I was six months pregnant, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and had to start testing my blood four times a day, alter my diet and go on medication.
If you haven’t already heard it, eventually someone is going to tell you to sleep all you can now because you won’t be getting any rest after your baby is born. Easier said than done, right?
Pregnancy demands extra energy: Your tissues are growing, moving those added pounds takes more effort, and your basal metabolism is elevated.
In fact, moms-to-be burn more energy just resting than nonpregnant women do. This means they must eat extra calories and burn fewer calories during normal activities. But until now, scientists weren't sure just how expectant women reduced their energy and expenditure.
While many doctors and women feel that bed rest can't do any harm and might do some good during certain high-risk pregnancies, a recent review of research suggests otherwise. Often-overlooked side effects include muscle atrophy, cardiovascular deconditioning, potential bone loss and depression, says study author Judith A. Maloni, Ph.D., R.N., a professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Being pregnant can result in unexpected medical conditions. Here, three mothers share the emotional and physical hurdles they faced along the way.
“The idea of a C-section scared me because it is major surgery.” Rachel Rosen, Tarzana, Calif.
More than 700,000 moms-to-be per year in the U.S. are put on some level of bed rest, experts say. While bed rest during pregnancy is one of the most often prescribed interventions, it is also one of the least studied. Women are highly motivated, obviously, because their biggest concern is their unborn children.
More than 700,000 pregnant women in the U.S. are prescribed some level of bed rest each year as a result of such factors as threatened preterm labor, spotting, bleeding, hypertension and, frequently, carrying twins or more. Most take to their beds (or couches) willingly despite the obvious—and tremendous—stress doing so puts on themselves and their families. “Women are highly motivated because their biggest concern is their unborn child,” says Judith A.
Pregnancy bed rest can take a big toll on you, physically and mentally. You can quickly lose strength, stamina and flexibility, which will leave you feeling lethargic and unable to perform daily tasks. However, without leaving your couch or bed, you can do gentle exercises that will improve circulation, stamina, mobility and flexibility, minimize loss of strength and help prevent pain and stiffness. The following simple exercises, paired with deep breathing, will also give you a much-needed mood boost.
I felt so trapped today! Everyone I know is either out and about or could be if they wanted. I have started to feel so angry and resentful.
— Jen Douglas, in her journal, May 4, 1997
Yes, you can work with your doctor and a physical therapist to develop an exercise plan. Keep in mind, however, that this is not the time for aerobic workouts or muscle strengthening. The goal of exercise while on bed rest is to minimize the risk of developing blood clots in your extremities.
What if I have a problem during labor? Is my baby healthy? Will my husband still think I'm sexy? Will my body ever be the same again?
Solutions: The best way to silence sleep-killing mind chatter is to work through bothersome problems before you go to bed. If anxieties still keep you awake, talk them through with a friend, your partner or a therapist. Also, perform relaxing bedtime rituals, such as taking a warm bath.