Bed rest was no stretch of movie marathons for Lennox McNeary, of Roanoke, Virginia. After going into preterm labor with her son, now 2, McNeary spent ten weeks horizontal -- six at home and four in the hospital. "I felt so helpless," she explains. "I couldn't shop for groceries or cook. My husband was working extra hours to make up for my lost income." And then there were the constant worries about the baby. "We didn't know if he was going to be born at 24 weeks or full-term, or if he would even survive. So my bed rest was anything but restful."
McNeary's experience is hardly unique. Nationwide, 1 in 5 expectant women ends up on some form of bed rest. But even though it hasn't been proven to prevent preterm birth (the main reason that it's prescribed) and although it can be physically and emotionally taxing, OBs continue to determine that when pregnancy gets rough, there are more benefits than drawbacks to required R & R. "It's a safeguard when we're trying to prolong the pregnancy," says Mary Rosser, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women's health at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City. "Getting Mom off her feet improves blood pressure and flow to the placenta and baby, and it decreases the pull of gravity and pressure on the cervix," Dr. Rosser explains. "Each day makes a difference." Indeed, according to the March of Dimes, for every day your baby stays in your womb between weeks 23 and 26, her survival odds increase by 2 to 4 percent. After 26 weeks, 80 percent of babies born survive; after 28 weeks, 96 percent make it.
So if your OB has told you to give it a rest, don't freak out. There are a zillion ways to stay healthy (and sane), however long you're cooped up.