The thought of lounging in bed all day watching Seinfeld reruns or reading probably sounds like a dream come true: no laundry to wash, no errands to run, no job hassles to think about. But what if you were stuck in that bed for six to eight weeks on doctor's orders? If you're one of the thousands of women put on bed rest every year due to pregnancy complications, staying in the prone position day after day isn't a luxury -- it's a necessity.
"A doctor wants to do everything possible to help a woman deliver a healthy, full-term baby," explains Bruce Flamm, M.D., an ob-gyn in Riverside, California, and a Parents adviser. "If complications arise during pregnancyand we think having the patient spend a few weeks off her feet will help the condition, we'll try it." For women suffering from abnormal bleeding, preterm labor, or incompetent cervix (in which the cervix becomes prematurely dilated), it's simply a matter of gravity: By remaining horizontal as much as possible, you're limiting pressure on the cervix. For those with preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), lack of exertion can help stabilize the condition. Bed rest may also be prescribed if you've had a previous miscarriage or premature delivery, if you're carrying multiples, or if you have a high-risk condition such as placenta previa (in which the placenta covers the cervical opening).