Is Bed Rest Bunk?
So what can you do if your doctor tells you that you should be on bed rest?
First, verify with her that a risk for preterm birth has been established. In these cases, lying on your side -- especially your left side, which increases blood flow to the uterus -- might help. It's not recommended that women lie on their back for long periods, since this can put pressure on the vein that brings blood from the lower body back to the heart.
Once your doctor has prescribed bed rest, make sure you understand the specifics of her prescription, which can range from giving up vacuuming and shopping to staying in a hospital bed 24 hours a day. Discuss as many details as you can, from whether you can ride in a car, have sex, or walk up stairs to how much weight you can lift and how long you can stand in the shower.
Also, bear in mind that since there is no standard definition of bed rest, prescriptions from doctors can vary for women with the exact same diagnosis. For that reason, if you have any doubts, experts recommend you get a second (or third) opinion from another OB, ideally one with a specialty in maternal-fetal medicine.
Bottom line: Bed rest is an odds game, says Roger Newman, M.D., director of maternal-fetal medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. "Physicians are bad at identifying who is at risk for preterm birth, and until we get better at it -- which we are -- we're going to continue to over-treat some patients to prevent tragedies in others," he says. It's a matter of talking to a doctor you trust and making a collaborative decision about what is best for you and your baby.
Dina Roth Port is a mother and freelance writer in Boca Raton, Florida.