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Rx for Better Bed Rest

One out of five pregnant women is sent to bed by her doctor to avoid giving birth prematurely. But restricting activity doesn't necessarily prevent preterm labor -- and it may exact a heavy toll physically, emotionally, and financially, says Judith Maloni, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University.

Her research found that staying in bed can cause an expectant woman to suffer headaches and indigestion and that the lack of exercise can weaken muscles and lead to bone loss. In addition, a woman can become bored, lonely, or anxious. There may be reduced income as well as added expenses for extra help.

If your ob prescribes bed rest to prevent premature labor, don't hesitate to seek a second opinion, preferably from a perinatologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. If bed rest is indeed in order, there are ways to alleviate the negative effects:

  • Get up if your doctor allows it. You can preserve muscle strength even if you're only allowed to walk around the room.
  • Prevent heartburn by eating smaller and more frequent meals.
  • Maintain a routine to fight boredom. Get dressed every morning and decide on a schedule: when you'll read, eat, work, and watch TV.
  • If you have a job, talk to your boss about the possibility of telecommuting, even on a part-time basis.
  • Limit the number of naps you take to help you sleep better at night.
  • Create diversions: Keep books, magazines, crossword puzzles, a phone, a laptop with e-mail access, and playthings for your kids nearby.
  • Seek emotional support. Contact Sidelines, a national high-risk-pregnancy support group (888-447-4754) to talk to others in your situation.
  • Seek financial aid. See what's covered by your insurance or state agencies. For inexpensive help: Call high schools or colleges for students to babysit, do housework, or run errands.
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