4. Changes in You

Bed Rest to Treat Premature Labor

The treatment used most often for premature labor is bed rest. A woman is advised to stay in bed and lie on her side. (Either side is OK.) The term bed rest can cover anything from cutting back on activities to being confined to bed for 24 hours a day, getting up only to go to the bathroom and to shower. It’s not uncommon to feel anger and resentment if you’re advised to go on bed rest.

Even if you have symptoms of premature labor, you may not deliver early.

About 20% of all pregnant women—nearly 1 million—are advised to rest in bed at some point. However, not all experts agree on this treatment. It’s OK to discuss bed rest and all of its implications with your healthcare provider if he or she recommends it. Ask if more tests, such as ultrasound or fetal fibronectin, might help or if medications are an option. Discuss getting a second opinion from a perinatologist, who deals with high-risk pregnancies.

Bed rest is often successful in stopping contractions and premature labor. If you are advised to rest in bed, it may mean you can’t go to work or continue many activities. It’s worth it to rest in bed if you can avoid premature delivery of your baby.

The most common reasons for ordering bed rest are premature labor, pre-eclampsia, contractions, chronic high blood pressure, incompetent cervix and placenta previa. High stress from a job or your lifestyle may also require bed rest. If serious complications arise, your healthcare provider may advise hospital treatment.

Tip for Week 29

If your healthcare provider advises bed rest, follow his or her instructions. It may be difficult for you to stop your activities and sit idly by when you have lots of things to do, but remember, it’s for the good health of you and your baby!

One negative to bed rest is the increased risk of a blood clot in your leg, called deep-vein thrombosis . Other problems include muscle weakness and/or atrophy, loss of bone calcium, weight-gain issues (gaining too much or too little weight), heartburn, constipation, nausea, insomnia, depression and family tension. Discuss with your healthcare provider exercises you can do while on bed rest, such as stretching or strength training, to prevent loss of muscle tone and strength.

Lying down for quite a while can lead to you being out of shape. Take it easy getting back into the swing of things after baby is born. It can take some time to return to your normal level of activity. Don’t rush into physical activities until you feel up to doing them.

Bed-Rest Boredom Relievers. Bed rest can mean anything from staying in bed part of the day to staying in bed 24/7. It can be pretty boring being stuck in bed. Below are some suggestions to help beat bed-rest boredom.

• Spend the day in a room other than your bedroom. Use the living-room or family-room sofa for daytime activities.

• Establish a daily routine. When you get up, change into daytime clothes. Shower or bathe every day. Comb your hair, and put on lipstick. Go to bed when you normally do.

• Don’t nap during the day—it can contribute to sleeplessness at night.

• Use foam mattress pads and extra pillows for comfort.

• Keep a telephone close at hand.

• Keep reading material, the television remote control, a radio and other essentials nearby.

• A laptop with internet access can be a lifesaver. It can entertain you and keep you connected at work.

• Use the time to learn another language—many language programs are available for the computer.

• Keep food and drinks close at hand. Use a cooler to keep food and drinks cold. Use an insulated container for hot soup or herbal tea.

• Do some crafts that aren’t messy, such as cross stitch, knitting, crocheting, drawing or hand sewing. Make something for baby!

• Use the time to plan for baby’s arrival.

• Spend some time planning baby’s room (someone else will have to carry through on it), deciding what you’ll need for a layette and making a list of all the necessary items you’ll need after baby comes home.

• Sort! Use the time to sort through recipes, to put pictures in albums, go through your coupons or make a scrapbook of information for after baby’s arrival.

• Call your favorite local charity or political organization, and volunteer to make phone calls, stuff envelopes or write letters.

• If you have other children at home, day care will probably be a necessity for you.

5. How Your Actions Affect Your Baby’s Development

Most of our discussion this week has been devoted to the premature infant and treatment of premature labor. If you’re diagnosed with premature labor and your healthcare provider prescribes bed rest and medicine to stop it, follow his or her advice!

If you’re concerned about your healthcare provider’s instructions, discuss them. If you’re told not to work or advised to reduce activities and you ignore the advice, you’re taking chances with your well-being and your unborn baby’s. It isn’t worth taking risks. Don’t be afraid to ask for another opinion or the opinion of a perinatologist if you have premature labor.

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