Surviving Pregnancy Bed Rest

November 1, 2011
Luanne O'Loughlin
Luanne O'Loughlin

I'm pregnant. Big deal? It is for me. I've had one live birth and four losses. We've also done the full arsenal of infertility treatments. This is pregnancy number six and "she" is the result of IVF/ICSI. As happy as we are, all good news is received cautiously.

I'm pregnant. Big deal? It is for me. I've had one live birth and four losses. We've also done the full arsenal of infertility treatments. This is pregnancy number six and "she" is the result of IVF/ICSI. As happy as we are, all good news is received cautiously.

Based on my prior history and my extra thick medical chart, there was no doubt that this pregnancy would be designated as high risk. I also knew that eventually I'd be facing bed rest due to my trick cervix. I am a DES daughter and I spent 12 weeks on modified bed rest in the pregnancy that resulted in the birth of our daughter, Carly, in 1992.

Back then, we lived in a small condo, I had no other child to chase, my husband traveled a lot (courtesy of the Navy), and house arrest was as good as bed rest. I felt that bed rest worked.

Since then, we've moved cross-country three times. We're in a much larger house, Carly is six years old, and we have a new network of friends. An indeterminable amount of time known as Bed rest loomed ahead and I spent hours trying to figure out when it would hit. That's a skill akin to predicting the path of a tornado.

At 18+ weeks, the perinatologist decided that it was time to begin modified bed rest. Carly is a kindergarten student in a half-day program. I sent a note home to all the girls' moms to explain our pregnancy difficulties and requested any play dates that could be scheduled in their homes. The moms really came through for me, and three took standing days each week. As much as I hated to ask, it was rewarding to know that I had such good friends.

The weekly high risk appointments continued and I also saw the perinatologists for frequent cervical ultrasounds.

Fast forward to 21+ weeks. I should have known that it was going to be a bad day, when, upon arrival at the clinic, I looked down and saw that I had a black shoe on one foot and a blue shoe on the other foot. (Pregnancy brain!) First I saw the resident, who was very upbeat. She said that my case been discussed in the morning meeting--I was doing well and they'd be seeing me less often. I had my doubts, but thought it would be wiser not to comment until after the exam. She didn't check my cervix so there was nothing to worry about. Then I went to the reception area for the perinatologists' office and one of the docs came out, sat near me, and said, as if it were a tape recording: they'd discussed me in the morning meeting, I was doing well, and they'd be seeing me less often. I concurred with the doc, and kept my doubts to myself. Eventually, I was escorted back and another perinatologist began the transvaginal ultrasound. From the first measurement (of the length of my cervix), I knew there was trouble in River City. At the first ultrasound of my cervix at 12 weeks, it had the shorter than normal length of 3.5cm and now it was down to 1.6. Before I knew it, I had two perinatologists taking measurements and presenting options.

Plan 1 was to be sent home on strict bed rest. Plan 2 was an emergency cerclage, which carried its own risks. Plan 3 was to be put in an inpatient bed, and monitored carefully for a few days, with the possibility of an emergency cerclage if needed. We live in the DC metro area and depending on traffic, it can take 45-90 minutes to get to the hospital and clinic. Plan 3 won.

The next two weeks were in the hospital bed on the antepartum-postpartum floor. I was monitored frequently, and had ultrasounds every 48-72 hours. I learned a lot from the nurses about how the hospital works. Sadly, a couple of premature babies died during my stay. Their deaths reinforced my need to be vigilant in doing all that I could to follow medical advice to maintain this pregnancy.

During the hospitalization, time I quickly pulled together a support team. The backbone of that support team are the same mom-friends who had been helping with Carly. My mother died a few years ago, and so, we had no one able to come help. My husband notified his co-workers and supervisor. The fact that I was an inpatient certainly stirred folks to action faster than if I'd been sent straight home on strict bed rest. I called the Moms who had previously received my note, and pulled together after school plans for Carly. Tom talked to neighbors about driving Carly to school. When you are used to doing everything for yourself, it is hard to ask for help. It is rewarding to have friends who really want to help.

My nurses and friends began to tease me about all of the arrangements I was making from bed --coordinating child care, shopping, changing my phone service, and arranging help. I'm a bit of a Type A, patience is not one of my virtues, and I don't know how to slow down. Bed rest is a huge obstacle to accomplishing tasks. For the past few years, I've been a freelance writer. I've written and contributed to books about the Internet and online services. And, my laptop came to my hospital room.

My friends began to comment that I needed to write a book about bedrest. After all, there I was: a writer on bed rest. I needed something to do. I'd never designed a web page, and I was embarrassed by this. How could I as a computer book author not have designed a web page? There was the kernel that became my web page. I searched other web sites and found interesting tips for bed rest. What was needed was a practical, how-to site. I created a web page: Surviving Pregnancy Bed rest.

I've mentioned it to my friend on an IVF mailing list, and I've also posted it to the newsgroup, misc. kids, pregnancy. I've been thrilled with the responses I've gotten from women who want to forward it to friends. The best messages have said, "I've never been on bed rest but now I know how to help someone who is." That's the best part, I'm thrilled to share all the wonderful ways that friends have helped and the ideas that have helped me to be more productive and organized in bed.

Surviving Pregnancy Bed rest is a work in progress. I look forward to the day when I can add the birth announcement and until then I will fiddle with the page to add links, enhancements, and tips that have worked for others.

Check Them Out:

Surviving Pregnancy Bedrest Web page