7 Tips for Surviving Pregnancy Bed Rest
By Hannah Camus
This was going to be it! After five years of infertility and two miscarriages, it was my turn for a stress-free pregnancy. “Everyone else” seemed to have those, so why not me? Full of naïve confidence, I told my fertility specialist during my frozen embryo transfer to ensure an easy pregnancy. He smiled and said he had high hopes. As it turned out, doctors shouldn’t make promises…
Other than a turbulent flight through a winter storm back home from the clinic, my two-week wait was uneventful. Like my last FET, this transfer resulted in a positive pregnancy test, but I had learned from the last time that this didn’t necessarily mean I was going to take home a healthy baby. Still, so far everything was going according to plan.
The day I returned back to work after Christmas vacation, I ended up in the Emergency Room with cramping and bleeding. The doctors didn’t think there was anything to worry about, but after two more ER visits, an ultrasound showed that my minuscule baby was surrounded by two giant subchorionic hematomas (SCHs). An SCH is a bleed between the chorion and the uterine wall. Although extremely common, there is no official cause and cure. Most of them are not excessively dangerous, but large SCHs or bleeds discovered before 9 weeks gestation, like mine, could increase the chance of having a miscarriage.
A few days later, my two SCHs had combined and formed one massive black, threatening mass next to the gestational sack. I was terrified. The only thing that seemed to stop the bleeding was bed rest. Seven and a half months of bed rest. So much for a well-deserved easy pregnancy!
I went from being an active person who spent her time working, cleaning, cooking, hiking and skiing, to a full-time baby bodyguard who now spends her days creating indents in the couch cushions. Other than becoming lazy and worrying every minute of every day, I tried to come up with activities to keep my mind off of the high-stress situation. Here are some of my tips for surviving pregnancy bed rest:
KEEP ON TOP OF WORK
Although this is definitely the time to put your baby’s health above work obligations, the world doesn’t stop when you suddenly leave your work desk. Staying on top of work from home, if that’s possible for you, can actually be a great way to keep yourself busy while on bed rest.
CELEBRATE THE MILESTONES
We made it through the first trimester! We felt the first flutter! We survived our 20-week ultrasound! We reached 25 weeks & viability! Celebrate these moments. Your baby is growing every day and he or she is becoming more and more ready to live outside your womb.
Who doesn’t love additional ultrasounds? Having had ultrasounds several times a week with IVF, my mind thought it was perfectly normal for ultrasounds to happen every two weeks during pregnancy. As it turns out, most people only have a handful of ultrasounds during their pregnancy! I know it’s not a good sign to have a cardboard box full of ultrasound pictures at the hospital, but try to enjoy it. At least you get to take home a stack of the cutest prenatal baby pictures!
BUY BABY THINGS
You might not be allowed to physically go shopping, but who says you can’t stop online?! Figure out if your town has a local Buy and Sell website to limit the costs. You will be surprised how many hand-me-downs in perfect condition people are willing to deliver to the house of a person who cannot leave her couch. You also have all the time you need to plan your nursery! Your partner can bring home paint samples so you can start designing from the couch. Stores and websites like Pottery Barn and Huggies offer nursery design tools you can play with until you discover your perfect design.
EXPLORE YOUR HOBBIES
You might be the unfortunate person who loves physical activities like hiking, skiing, swimming, and going for after work runs. I get it: my poor skis were standing on the deck all winter long without being used. Don’t despair; there are other things in the world than outdoor activities! Figure out if you can order books on your local library’s website and give your partner or a friend authorization to pick them up for you.
Feeling creative? There are lovely acrylic paint tutorials on YouTube, like the Art Sherpa or the Will Kemp Art School. I admit, it’s not easy painting on the couch, but it’s worth trying. You might discover your hidden artistic talents!
Not much of a painter? Write stories, blogs, or start a pregnancy diary. One day, you or your baby might want to reminisce about these moments. Remember crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, sudokus and actual jigsaw puzzles? If you’re off work for a considerable amount of time, your brain might need a little bit of stimulation to stay active.
If you’re not into puzzling but want to keep your mental faculties up to date, start learning a new language or follow an online course in a subject you’re interested in. Of course, Netflix can always rescue you from an afternoon of staring at the ceiling. Don’t feel guilty about binge-watching your twenty new favorite shows. In a few months, you won’t have time to watch TV anymore!
ASK FOR HELP
You might suddenly discover that your partner is not the perfect house-husband and that you’re missing your clean floors and perfectly manicured lawn. It’s tough to ask for help without feeling useless, but trust me: people love to bring you dinners, clean your house, and help out in other ways. You are not useless, you are growing a human being who needs a lot of extra care and rest. People understand! Reach out to your friends, family, church, or community. It feels horrible at first, but it’s all worth it.
And while you’re asking for help, ask people to stay for a visit. Bed rest can be lonely. If you wait for people to invite themselves, you might have to wait a long time. Having people over helps in the fight against cabin fever and can take the mind off your worries.
STAY IN SHAPE
Move those toes! Bed rest is not necessarily healthy for your body. If you pay attention, you can actually see your muscle tone disappear. You are probably allowed to wiggle your toes, which doesn’t seem like much, but it helps your blood flow. When your doctor allows you to take small walks again, you might feel like a grandma. Bring your spouse or a friend on your tiny walks, just in case you need to sit down. It’s surprising how fast your physical condition deteriorates, but don’t be afraid, you will bounce back.
The most important part to remember is that it’s all worth it! Be glad there are ultrasounds and other medical advances in place to diagnose you and monitor your baby.
Be glad if your employer is encouraging you to stay at home. Be glad to have friends who offer to clean your house. Bed rest isn’t easy or fun, but if you have to do it, trust me, you’ll do everything in your power to keep your baby safe, even before he or she is born!
Hannah Camus is a writer who lives in Northern BC with her husband and two puppies. For the past five years, they have been struggling with infertility and recurrent miscarriages. They went through IVF and are hoping to welcome their baby boy in August 2019. Hannah writes about infertility and baby loss for several magazines, and blogs about immigration to Canada on www.survivingminus30.wordpress.com. She also writes fiction and after having published a novel and a short story in the Netherlands, she is currently working on her first novel in English.