The Allure of Bedrest

Before anyone gets hot under the collar about me thinking that lying in bed day in and day out for weeks or even months on end is “alluring”, let me start off with a disclaimer. No, I do not think that it is! While I’ve never had to endure bedrest, I have had some periods of sickness in my life that made being housebound or bed-bound extremely boring after just a few days. Even being able to watch TV constantly became irritating. I remember one sickness in particular when I was actually wishing I could go back to school! “So, if you don’t mean that, what do you mean?” Simply this.

When I had the previously mentioned episodes of spotting in this pregnancy, I started turning over in my mind anything and everything that I might have done to cause it. Even though part of my brain told me that there was nothing I did that caused it. After all, everything that I had done in this pregnancy, I had done at the same time in previous pregnancies (more or less — sometimes much more!), and hadn’t had a problem with it. But still I wondered: Ok, so I hadn’t done aerobics exercises, but maybe the abdominal toning exercises had caused it? I had gone up and down stairs a lot right before I noticed the red bleeding the first time, so maybe that was it? Surely it wasn’t sitting on the exercise ball!… was it? Ok, so I picked up my three-year-old when he was crying. Bad mommy! And I had done my yoga/relaxation exercises that I had discovered midway through my first pregnancy and hadn’t done in early pregnancy either of my other times — could that have caused uterine bleeding?

And that is what I mean when I refer to “the allure of bedrest.” There is the idea that somehow, something you did caused or at least contributed to the spotting (or miscarriage), and if you can just somehow figure out what that thing was and stop doing that, then you can make sure you don’t do that thing again. In my case, I did try to take it easy after the first case of red bleeding (as in, mostly sitting, sometimes lying down, minimizing trips upstairs, absolutely not picking up anything heavy, and no sex), and it seemed to help — the bleeding was minimal, lightening both in quantity and color as the day went on, and stopped before the day ended. But when I bled again in the middle of the night, after having done nothing more vigorous than walking ten feet from my bedroom to the bathroom, I figured maybe bedrest wasn’t helping. But I’m still trying to take it easy — in particular, I still am not picking up anything heavy. Just in case.

There may be some benefits of bedrest, in specific instances — I don’t know all the ins and outs, whys and wherefores, good and bad about bedrest, based on particular symptoms and risk factors. My mother-in-law swears that bedrest enabled her to maintain her first pregnancy (my husband and his twin brother) after she hemorrhaged in her first trimester. And there is often the thought, among both mothers and doctors, that “it can’t do any harm, and it might do some good.” However, that’s not always true! — I was reminded of a study I’d read about, done in Australia, of women pregnant with twins, undertaken to see if hospitalization with bed-rest, in the absence of any risk factors other than twin gestation, made any difference in their pregnancies, and specifically in the rates of preterm birth. [“The effects of hospital admission for bed rest on the duration of twin pregnancy: a randomised trial” The Lancet, Volume 326, Issue 8459, Pages 793-795] It did. Women who were randomly placed on bed-rest had a significantly higher risk of preterm birth than women who were randomly assigned to continue life as normal.

But for myself, I will say that had I not sat down and “tried to take it easy” when I started spotting and bleeding, I probably would wonder if perhaps I would have stopped, had I done so. There still remains an allure of bedrest.

[Update — I did end up miscarrying soon after writing this.]

3 Responses

  1. talking about an incomplete cervix (which I was at higher risk for but didn’t end up having) during my first pregnancy my OB (before I switched to a midwife) said “the standard is to put the mother on bedrest, but recent studies suggest that doesn’t actually help, so maybe in the future we won’t be doing that”. I found it ironic and typical of the L&D mentality that, at best, a practice that is disproved ‘might’ change in the ‘future’.

  2. I was on “bedrest” for a couple of weeks at the beginning of last month. It sucked, and with a toddler, the only way I managed it at all was through very generous friends.

    Take it easy, as much as possible!

  3. So sorry that you are dealing with these worries and concerns.

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