No Bed Rest for Mommy

March 26, 2006

Editor’s Note: After hearing from the author of this piece, Sarah Bilston, I wanted to disclose that I failed to differentiate between ‘strict bed rest’ and resting during pregnancy, in general, which is how I initially interpreted this piece. Please do check out the comments to this post as they are insightful. Thanks!

Here’s another story for the “Let’s-not-help-pregnant-women” file: The New York Times ran a puzzling op-ed piece on Friday questioning the conventional wisdom of doctor-prescribed bed rest for women with pregnancy complications.

The writer, Sarah Bilston, who was prescribed bed rest for her own pregnancy because of low amniotic fluid levels, described the horror of being condemned to bed in our fast-paced society:

For many women (though fortunately not for me), such feelings of frustration and isolation lead to outright depression, not to mention the burden of lost wages and other financial costs.

And yet there is substantial doubt within the medical profession about the efficacy of bed rest. My own doctors, who were undoubtedly acting in good faith, openly admitted that they were not sure bed rest would increase my amniotic fluid levels. I carried my daughter to term, although no one could tell me if bed rest really helped or not.

In fact, doctors in other countries are far less likely to prescribe it.

Bilston went on to give Australia as an example where doctors “typically monitor pregnancy complications through daily testing at a clinic or, for more serious cases, at prenatal units in hospitals where regular movement is encouraged.”
Well, first of all, it’s Australia, the land of sunshine and universal health care. Imagine pregnant ladies in Chicago braving snowstorms to get to the clinic everyday? Not to mention, giving their bosses in America — the Mecca of Productivity — a reason why they aren’t well enough to work, yet, can visit the doctor so often.

This story left me shaking my head as did some feminists’ aversion to a proposed New Jersey law that would allow visibly pregnant women to use parking spaces for the handicapped. Maybe not all pregnant ladies should get the placards, but if a doctor recommends it, why not?

I welcomed all the help offered me whether it was a seat on the train or my husband’s helping around the house while I napped. After battling morning sickness so severe that I would puke in my job’s bathroom, in the shower, basically, to the point of weight loss in the first three months of pregnancy, nose bleeds and constipation in my second trimester and, finally, rapid weight gain, swollen wrists, ankles and aching back and knees in my last months, I jumped at the chance to stay home one month before my due date and collect disability. After struggling for eight months to complete an 8-hour-work day with a fuzzy, hormone-induced head and a shrinking bladder that led me to interrupt interviews to run to the bathroom or stop at random train stations during my one-hour commute to and from home, I felt I deserved a break.

But according to some folks that is a weakness women should not exploit. A little more compassion, por favor.