No matter what the circumstances, no woman is prepared to be placed on bed rest and taken away from all the roles and responsibilities that define her. Suddenly you’re no longer a coworker or a mom, a wife or partner, a daughter, sister or friend. You’re an incubator, alone and left to worry about the health and possibly the survival of your baby, while you try to prolong your pregnancy and hopefully prevent a preterm birth.
With my two stints on bed rest (6 weeks with my daughter and 15 weeks with my son) I tried to tough it out, to bury the feelings of anxiety and isolation and a loss of control. Maybe you don’t want to ask for help. Maybe you don’t want to trouble anyone, or you don’t want to be dependent on other people. Here’s the thing: You NEED other people in your life, and there are people there who WANT to help you. It’s time to build your Bed Rest Support Squad.
A Support Group: First, find people like you who can relate to what you are going through. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, you can search for support groups with terms like “bed rest,” “incompetent cervix,” “preeclampsia” or “twins.” The group I host at www.KeepEmCookin.com is an online bed rest support group for women experiencing any pregnancy complication. All of these groups let you vent, worry and celebrate with people who truly understand you.
A Medical Professional You Can Trust: You may be seeing a midwife or obstetrician, but consider adding a maternal-fetal medicine specialist to your team of care providers. A maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist is trained to work with high-risk patients. They have additional education and clinical experience within an American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology-approved program. Your OB or midwife will be able to make a recommendation for an MFM specialist with whom they collaborate. Your OB may also be able to connect you with specific high-risk programs connected to the hospital where you will deliver. You can search for an MFM specialist here: https://www.smfm.org/members/search
A Childbirth Instructor: Many women on bed rest miss out on childbirth education because they can’t leave the house often. Ask your doctor, local mom’s groups and your online support group about instructors (or doulas) who do house calls. You might also purchase a childbirth DVD or find videos online. One option I recommend to my mamas on bed rest is a virtual childbirth preparedness class. Do an online search and you will find many of them.
A Doula: For additional support in the delivery room, take time to interview a few doulas. A doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides physical and emotional support to the mother before, during and just after birth. There are also doulas who provide emotional and hands-on support after you return home from delivery. They can help a mother who has been on bed rest ease into the physical demands of motherhood, and can help spot signs of postpartum depression. (Women with complicated pregnancies or deliveries are at a higher risk for depression following delivery.) Doulas of North America (DONA) offers a search feature here: www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula/find-a-doula/. Although not as common, there are doulas who provide services prior to delivery! Their services will vary, but they can help to do things like shop, get the nursery ready, prepare meals, do light housekeeping, and more. Just ask! You can search for an antepartum doula on the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association website here: www.icappa.net/search/newsearch.asp
A Bed Rest Concierge/Baby Planner/Personal Assistant: There are several services scattered about the United States that provide an extra hand for women on bed rest. I’ve listed them on KeepEmCookin here: www.keepemcookin.com/resources/. Other options are personal assistants, as well as teens or other mothers looking to earn some extra cash by running errands and handling other basic chores. You just have to be willing to swallow your pride and ask for help. And when friends ask what they can do, tell them. Really. Do it.
A Lactation Consultant: If this is your first child, or it’s been a few years since you last breastfed, take the time to connect with a lactation consultant. I encourage everyone to keep a positive attitude about their pregnancies, but if you’re experiencing a high-risk pregnancy you may have questions specifically about nursing a preemie, or about pumping and what kinds of supplies you may need. If you’re in the hospital they have consultants who can come to you. You also may be able to find a lactation consultant who will come to your home. There’s an easy online search tool here: http://www.ilca.org/why-ibclc/falc
A Cheerleader: This can be anyone who cares about you. Find the friends, coworkers and family members who have supported you through thick and thin. Find the people who always make you laugh. Find the good-natured drama queens and focus on their crazy lives for a bit. Then invite them all into your bed rest bubble. Do not isolate yourself.
Every time you get the emotional, physical and medical support you need, you reduce your risk of preterm birth by reducing your stress level. You will feel understood. The demands you can no longer handle on your own will be met. Your healthcare questions will be answered and you can understand what you need to do to prolong your pregnancy.
So do what you can — during this time when you can’t do much — to ease your mind and your burdens, with your bed rest support squad.