Bed Rest and Work? HOW?

In March, an op-ed piece in the New York Times about bed rest opened my eyes to how common the treatment has become. Each year 750,000 (1 in 5) pregnant women are prescribed bed rest to treat ailments ranging from low amniotic fluid to pregnancy-induced hypertension--without clear medical evidence that bed rest is therapeutic.

Having endured that frustrating experience herself, the writer of the New York Times piece, Sarah Bilston, wrote a novel, Bed Rest, which I reviewed for the Washington Post Book World. I didn't like it much. Bed rest is simultaneously terrifying and boring -- to go through yourself and certainly to read about in your non-existent leisure time. Plus, in a cop-out that trivializes the challenges facing pregnant women everywhere, Bilston dodges the real issues at stake: high medical costs, lost pay, and debilitating double whammy that 1) your baby's health might be at stake and 2) by protecting your unborn child, you might lose your job.

But the book made me think quite a bit about how hard a complicated pregnancy can make combining work and family -- sometimes before you have a family, sometimes with young children running around. Bed rest and other prenatal treatments can force your boss, your co-workers and sometimes your entire company to make compromises on your behalf, long before maternity leave starts. My three pregnancies were all healthy (although psychedelic nausea accompanied my last one). Tell us about yours. Advice abounds -- a good place to start is Sidelines, a network that matches you with another woman on bed rest.

What's your advice on how to handle a difficult pregnancy and the costs associated with one? What can doctors, employers, health insurance providers and other moms do to help make it easier?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 12, 2006; 10:16 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
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Wow, this one is close to home. I had two successful, but complicated, pregnancies, together with three miscarriages. Nothing was ever easy -- "morning" sickness for 4-5 months, bleeding, shots, medical complications, you name it. I've been on bed rest any number of times -- that seemed to be the standard response whenever anything went wrong. Not that I'd have been much more productive at work -- it's hard to focus when you're worried about losing a baby.

I think bed rest is born out of fear and frustration. As far as I know, there's no proof that it works. But when something is going wrong, we -- both us and our doctors -- desperately want to do something, ANYthing to help. So they send us home, because it just logically seems like relaxing and lying down should be easier on the baby than running around doing work or errands or chasing a toddler. And I grabbed onto that recommendation, because it was the only thing I could do -- just dropped everything, raced home, and stayed in bed. And who can say whether it helped or not? I know that three times it didn't. But I'll never know whether it did the other two times, whether I would have any kids at all if I hadn't listened. Would any mom take that chance, run that risk, if they didn't absoltely have to (for fear of losing a job, etc.)?

I was also extremely lucky in that I have had understanding employers. The first couple of times, I went through all my sick leave and went into my FMLA leave. But at least I HAD leave, and we were still able to pay our bills.

The last couple of times, I was with my current firm, which I think the world of. Most recently, I got pregnant not too long after being elected partner -- the timing was horrible, because I desperately wanted to prove my worth to the firm, establish myself in my new position. But that's life; instead, I spent the majority of that year incredibly sick, at the dr's, having to dash out on little notice for medical crises, etc. But I have received nothing but support from my firm. As my boss said, "we realize that everyone goes through a tough stretch at some point; yours just happens to be now." The funny thing is, I routinely cover for other lawyers when they go on vacation, are sick, are traveling or in trial, etc. So why did I feel so horrible asking for help when I needed something? Luckily, they saw the long-term picture, when even I didn't.

So that year I contributed less to the firm's bottom line than I should have. But they saw that 6 mos or so as a short blip in a 40-year career, and they wanted to make sure that I spend the remainder of that 40 years here. And they succeeded -- the only thing that's pulling me away from here is the MegaMillions Jackpot.

I ache for pregnant women who do have to choose between bedrest and losing their jobs or paying their bills. I know, intimately, the overwhelming fear that comes with a possible miscarriage. But even with the ones I lost, I at least had the solace of knowing that I had done everything I could to save them. I wish I had some advice or solutions for this. So many employers seem to view employees as interchangeable widgets, so the minute one widget becomes less productive (even temporarily), it's on to the next. I just wish more employers took a long-term view.

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2006 11:11 AM

As the friend of two pregnant women who are having to deal with pre-term labor (and the fears attendant with it), I can only suggest that workplaces need, at the very least, to allow colleagues to donate sick leave or personal leave to their colleagues. And why can we not follow the examples of other industrialized countries and really commit to maternity/family leave? It not only takes a village to raise a child, it can often take a village (or communities such as the workplace) to help parents give birth to their children. The more habitual such support becomes, the ways in which it can become a cultural standard, the less the receiver need feel like a charity case. It is really hard to let others do for you as they so very much want to do.

Posted by: Carol | June 12, 2006 11:23 AM

I just read somewhere (forgot where) that Sweden was named the best country to be a woman. Sweden is usually named when the conversation drifts towards excellent social benefits and high standard of living. The U.S. is not Sweden -- a small homogeneous mostly middle class country with very high taxes and fairly competent government. I would like to see private sector adapt more liberal and flexible family leave policy and attitude WITHOUT the government involvement.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2006 11:35 AM

"So many employers seem to view employees as interchangeable widgets, so the minute one widget becomes less productive (even temporarily), it's on to the next. I just wish more employers took a long-term view."

amen, sistah!

Posted by: nat | June 12, 2006 11:37 AM

It's tough from the HR's perspective when you have a large company, different levels of female employees with varying salaries who should all be treated equally. It's unfair when certain higher-level employees are allowed to "work from home" (ha-ha) so that they can continue to collect a paycheck (even partial) while lower-level colleagues have to use all of their leave and FMLA protection because their job obviously cannot be done from home.

The double-standard comes when favoritism is shown which, in the long run makes it hard on everyone when co-workers have to pick up the slack and they aren't guaranteed equal treatment.

This is a real business conflict that I'm sure occurs in a lot of companies...

Posted by: Fair treatment for everyone | June 12, 2006 11:54 AM

I was on bedrest at 30 weeks and remember dreading the call to my boss. I had a "doctor's note" but he still didn't get it. He would call two-four times per week saying "I know you are suppose to be resting, but if you are feeling better, we could really use your help." It was horrible having to re-tell the reason and necessity for bedrest every few days. It didn't do much to relax me either. We moved my desktop computer next to my bed so I could work from home, but I could not stay in one position for very long.

Financially it wasn't too bad - though we did have to visit the "payday advance" place once. I wasn't expecting being out of work 8 weeks early! I was counting on those paychecks to make maternity leave work. So I ended up going back to work 6 weeks post partum, part-time, and full time 12 weeks post-partum.

Posted by: NewMom | June 12, 2006 12:00 PM

Earlier in my pregnancy I was put on bed rest. Since my office job does not require met to be on my feet for most of the day, I was lucky that my supervisor and coworkers were willing to help me out and arrange a work situation that was suitably restful. They arranged my work area so that I could recline with my feet up and continue to work. Several meetings were relocated to inside our office so that I could attend. With some help from my family at home, everything worked out fine and I ended up taking much less time off. Believe me, we all "won" this one.

Posted by: just off of bed rest | June 12, 2006 12:08 PM

I didn't have to suffer through bedrest with my pregnancy, but I did throw up every single day -- sometimes throughout the day -- for 4 months.

My colleagues were great. My boss was understanding about my absences from meetings and my need to sit near the door when I did attend.

I recently had a miscarriage, and again, my work was fantastic. I was so grateful to my colleagues, who took on my work on top of their own without missing a beat.

It does make such a difference.

Posted by: Q | June 12, 2006 12:14 PM

I am on modified bedrest--pelvic rest--which, because I have a stitch in place to hold baby up, is really helped by bedrest, and helped with my first pregnancy --it is a gravitational issue, afterall, of pressure bearing down, and am at home tryign ot assemble childcare. I have a toddler and cannot get a nanny that isn't exorbitant through a nanny service so am finding it hard to do avoid chasing a two-year-old around the parks and the house. I have found that all the negative feedback on bedrest has made family and spouse rather frustratingly unsupportive of helping out, saying I can do it and am really okay--especially since I look okay. It is hard to say--this is what the doctor wants without that advice being poo-pooed. Plus, they think it is fun to get out of doing things. I think there is hstility toward a pregnant woman on bedrest now. The consensus seems to be, she shouldn't be there and is being a burden to her family, society...

Posted by: E.D. | June 12, 2006 12:58 PM

My husband & I will be trying to have a baby in the very near future, and I've started wondering how I'll get through the days at work when going through morning sickness, etc. Any words of wisdom out there or things that helped you get through the tough days?

Posted by: Looking for advice | June 12, 2006 12:59 PM

I'd like to see a column on a separate day talking about how difficult it is to go through infertility treatments while trying to hold down a job. Perhaps this could be discussed as well, as it is something others have had to also deal with? Things like: getting a call at 11 a.m. that your morning bloodwork indicates that you're "ready", so you have to leave your office to race downtown to get inseminated, lie there for 15 minutes to let everything "settle", and then race back to work. This is always a challenge to try to explain to your office manager, to say the least! ;)

Posted by: Going thru infertility | June 12, 2006 1:05 PM

We hadn't even gotten through paying for the third birth when my wife became pregnant with the fourth. After a few months, my wife became very concerned because she didn't feel the

baby kicking anymore. The sonagram confirmed her fear and she blamed herself for petty things like drinking a diet coke and missing a few perscription vitamins. She felt so guilty, as if

she murdered her own baby. To make matters worse, we spent our summer vacation after the miscarrige sharing a beach house with my brother's family, and his wife was pregnant.

She was so depressed, she didn't even go in the water.
So we did the "make-up" baby. I call him "Baby Boy" and he is almost 4 years old now. He almost didn't make it either. At 6 months, my wife began to hemmorage. The doctor

sentenced her to bedrest. She was only to get up to use the bathroom and could only go up and down the steps once a day, and absolutely no driving. This was really tough on me. I had

to take care of 3 kids (10 and under), become a nurse to a bed-ridden wife, work a full-time job, and worse yet, I don't drive, so getting the kids to school, sports practices, buying

groceries... what a nightmare! Many times I woke up still wearing 1 shoe. Of coarse, I didn't do it all by myself. This is where the neighbors, family, friends all chipped in to help.

Although my wife claims I did a lousy job at the time, we all pulled together and got through it alive. these are my suggestions:
1. Make as many friends as possible.
2. Always be kind to your neighbors, even though you hate their mutt that craps in your yard.
3. As far as the job goes, screw 'em. It's only money.
4. Make sure you pray for your baby's gardien angel as often as possible. This will help protect him from harm. If anything does go wrong, you can honestly tell yourself that you did everything possible to bring him into this world. No guilt necessary.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 12, 2006 1:07 PM

I'd say the best advice is not to take yourself too seriously, unless there's a medical problem (and then you'll probably be so scared out of your mind you won't be thinking straight). Remember, you are PREGNANT, not sick. Don't ask for special treatment (except from your husband, the only one who will probably feel the same as you -- if you're lucky). Also, remember that the chances of you carrying to term and delivering a healthy baby are excellent. It can be hard to realize that when it seems like all we hear about is the worst-case scenarios. I also recommend tossing "What to Expect" in the trash and reading Vicki Iovine's Girlfriends' Guides for some good advice. Finally, enjoy it, especially your first pregnancy. I spent most of mine wrapped in a glow feeling like my body was the most amazing thing on the planet. I had two great pregnancies and now have two healthy and happy children. I wish you the same.

Posted by: To Looking for Advice | June 12, 2006 1:09 PM

Laura, your story is amazing. Your firm is really special and I hope that more firms will go in that direction. My firm purports to be supportive but as observed by a number of other posters, "leave" (whether for maternity, bedrest, whatever) often implies "working from home" while including a reduced--or absent--paycheck. So although (hopefully) your job is still there waiting for you when you return, you were never really away to begin with, and this effect is actually more pronounced for the "higher ups" as opposed to the staffers--a secretary wouldn't be expected to dial in for a conference call while nursing a baby, for example. I sympathize with "Fair Treatment for Everyone" but I note that the grass is always greener on the other side. Hang in there ladies, if we stick together we can figure out a way to change things for the better!

Posted by: Bedrest is a bummer | June 12, 2006 1:11 PM

Looking for Advice...

A few things that helped me with morning sickness:

1) The classic advice to eat saltines and drink ginger tea does help, but not much. The idea is to be very very careful to avoid having an empty stomach. It's always better to have a little something in your stomach, because the empty stomach leads to nausea, and then it's very intimidating to try to eat something. You're supposed to nibble something before you get out of bed, and then it's helpful to nibble all day.

2) Some women have good luck with sea bands, which are meant for motion sickness. You can buy them at Target. They are little elastic bands with a button that presses a certain place on your wrist. (It's an accupressure-type thing.)

3) Hard candies helped me tremendously -- especially sour flavors. You can buy hard candies made specifically for morning sickness.

4) Eat bland foods. Stay away from things that are traumatic when they come back up.

5) Carry a large cup or something around with you at work, in case you need to throw up in the hall or something. It's awful to have to do that, but the alternative is worse!

6) Don't expect it to end with the first trimester. Many women are sick well into the second. An unlucky few are sick until the end. But it WILL end. You WILL feel like yourself again.

7) Some of my friends had good luck with protein drinks.

It's an awful reality of pregnancy for many women. Good luck!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2006 1:15 PM

Related to dealing with morning sickness at work (been there, done that, office was tres understanding), what about when you return to work and are dealing with a lovely case of depression (the regular kind made worse by being post-partum)? Not really something I want to be talking about to coworkers, but how do you explain the long bouts in the bathroom while you try to stiffle the tears? I'd quit this job in a heartbeat, except my husband got laid off and while he job searches we need the income and the health insurance.

Posted by: j | June 12, 2006 1:15 PM

why can't bedrest be dealt as a short term disability condition without forcing the pregnant woman into the FMLA situation and borrowing against her maternity leave? Pregnancy is not sickness but there are high risk pregnancies that cross the line into a medical condition category and I bet that an OBGYN would support the disability claim. Of course, this only covers women who work for large companies who offer this type of insurance.......

Posted by: question | June 12, 2006 1:30 PM

To Looking for Advice,

I agree for the most part with another poster. Don't look at "What to Expect...", it's full of cautions and directives that will only make you nervous and guilt ridden. I liked the Dr. Sears Pregnancy Book, it has a much more positive outlook. And, I totally agree that you should approach pregnancy as a normal, happy, and healthy state, and remember that the vast majority of pregnancies and child births are normal and do not require intervention.

That said, I had horrendous morning sickness all day long for the first three months, and if that's the case for you, I don't think you should feel like you can't ask for accomodations or at least some understanding from those around you. I was in law school at the time, and I just let my professors know what was going on and explained that if I came in late, or was eating saltines and drinking ginger beer, it was not at all a sign of disrespect. They were very understanding. I think letting people know what's going on is often enough to trigger some understanding without needing to ask for much. I know that some people consider it taboo to tell people before 3 months, but for me it made a huge difference.

Also, in practical terms, ginger is great for an upset stomach. Candied ginger is nice treat. Reeds Ginger Beer is made with actual ginger (as opposed to ginger ale and most brands of ginger beer with just have ginger flavoring added) and did wonders for my stomach. Also, I realized early on that odors were a real trigger for me, and that carrying around some good counter-acting smells could help. I found the smell of cedar to be soothing, so I carried cedar blocks in my bag and when a smell would start to make me sick I would pull it out. It looked a little weird, but it worked.

Posted by: Megan | June 12, 2006 1:30 PM

J, you don't mention how long you've been stifling tears in the bathroom, but you might want to talk to your OB about it. I absolutely should have been on anti-depressants for a while after my son was born, but I saw that only in hindsight. I felt as though my reality had turned upside down. I'm not sure how I managed to function, and working was almost impossible. I would really recommend that you ask about it. Normal post-partum is short-term and should be over by the time you return to work.

Posted by: Other Mom | June 12, 2006 1:32 PM

Here were the phases of my pregnancy:

Cramps- I am losing the baby.

No- the baby can't possible be in my tube.

Baby is not in tube-Hooray!

Me to doctor
Whoa- am I supposed to be this sick for 6 months.
I can't gain weight when I am this sick! Go ahead and put me in the hospital.

Lovely, morning sickness is gone.

Me to doctor who is not regular doctor
Are you kidding me, I am having pre-term labor? (7 1/2 months pregnant)Bed rest, just what the doctor ordered. Oh and a healthy dose of terbutaline (an asthma drug).

Doctor on call at 8 months
No you are not in labor.

Yes I am.

No you are not.

The nurse at the hospital who apparently thinks said doctor is stupid.
No really, she is and she is already 7 centimeters dilated.

Baby is fine~ can't say I'm excited to go through it again though.

My regular doctor was great. The doctor who delivered my baby was full of herself and didn't listen to me at all. I was so shook up by the time I got to the hospital 30 miles away in a snowstorm that I couldn't really enjoy the experience.

Most of my co-workers were supportive and worried about me. However, there are always those few who think you are getting a break by being on bed rest. I always felt like saying yes, it was great, I could only get up to pee and was constantly worried that my baby would be born to early to breath on her own. That being said, I really didn't care what they thought and when I took PTO, I took it without any feelings of guilt because I earned it like everyone else.

Posted by: scarry | June 12, 2006 1:39 PM

Thank you, thank you - thank you! For the pieces of advice and best wishes to anyone with kids/expecting/wanting to be expecting. :-)

Posted by: Looking for advice | June 12, 2006 1:42 PM

looking for advice,

I hate to tell you this but nothing helped me with my morning sickness. Although the doctor did finally prescribe me with the drug phenagan (spelling is wrong) I didn't take it because I was afraid it would hurt the baby.

Good luck to you.

Posted by: scarry | June 12, 2006 1:47 PM

Looking for Advice - one last thought - go with a midwife, if you can. Doctors have no business being involved in a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy and birth. Doctors can be great IF you need medical care. But birth is natural and does not need to be "treated" most of the time.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2006 1:47 PM

My wife was put on bed rest at 30 weeks and it actually turned out to be a great thing. She is an attorney, and after a few weeks of basically doing nothing, we were able (with the help of her firm) to set up a little office in the house next to the bed. She was on the phone, checking her blackberry, editing documents (that I printed) and then faxed back to the office. She actually billed more while at home than while at the office. The firm didn't mind nor did the clients.

Posted by: Bob | June 12, 2006 1:52 PM

Scarry, welcome back! Hope you had a great week at the beach.

Father of 4 - thanks for sharing that story, so sorry you all went through that but glad you made it with perspective intact.

Looking for Advice: If you want a natural childbirth, I completely agree with the 1:47 post on getting a midwife. I had a hard time finding one and ended up with OBs for a while, and wasn't comfortable with them all (though one of them was great and I'm sure I would have had a great labor with her, I could have ended up with any one of 7). I finally found a great practice of midwives and a birthing center and switched to them in my third trimester. I was 10 days past my due date when I finally went into labor, and had a fantastic natural birth, and my baby was 10 pounds 5 ounces. I am certain that had I been with the OBs, I would have been pressured to accept interventions and would not have been allowed to go for 10 days past due based on the size of my baby, and probably would have ended up in a c-section.

Also, if there is a certified birth center nearby, definitely go there if you want a natural birth - it is much better to go somewhere that does natural births as the norm, not the exception, because the staff and nurses will understand how to support that kind of birth. Nurses in hospitals where epidurals, episiotomies (sp?) and c-sections are more common will have a different set of skills and a different approach. I am not insulting hospital nurses, just pointing out that natural childbirth requires a different approach and you are more likely to get that at a certified birth center where that is all they do. Check out if you want to find one in your area; remember that any hospital can call it's labor and delivery ward a "birth center," but if it isn't certified, the name doesn't necessarily mean anything. A lot of the places we looked at were called "birth centers" but were basically traditional wards that were redecorated.

Posted by: Megan | June 12, 2006 2:05 PM

Dear Looking for advice-

I had terrible nausea and despite being in a medical setting, did not have a loat of understanding from co-workers (felt like a slacker). But I did find that a few things helped...
1. Sour stuff--I loved sourpatch kids or lemon drops.
2. dry starchy stuff and a little bit of nibbling all through the day--cinnamon graham crackers worked great for me.
3. carrying sachets of a smell I liked to cover one I did not. I love lavender, so made a few sachets.
4. forget the "what to expect" diet--eat moderately of the foods that appeal.
5. when it comes to your prenatal vitamin, try taking it at bedtime, sleeping may prevent you from bringing it up.

In terms of meds, while nothing has had a lot of study, if you are truly having hyperemesis, Zofran works great and is supposed to be safe.

Posted by: Sunniday | June 12, 2006 2:05 PM

The Mayo clinic describes the three most important benefits of bed rest as being:

1. Decreased pressure on baby. Lying in a reclining position decreases the pressure of the baby on the cervix. The reduction in pressure may reduce stretching of the cervix. Cervical pressure can cause contractions, miscarriage, preterm labor, rupture of membranes, or vaginal bleeding.
2. Increased oxygen and nutrients to baby. Bed rest increases blood flow to the placenta, thereby improving oxygenation and nutrition for the fetus who is growing poorly or hindered by problems with the placenta.
3. Improved maternal organ function. Bed rest helps the mother's organs function more efficiently. Improved heart and kidney function can help in the management of high blood pressure (hypertension).

My wife is 5 months pregnant with twins who share a single placenta. Although our children are healthy so far, the risk of twin-to-twin transference remains. Item 2 above is certainly a prescribed treatment for that condition, and I would not be surprised at all if my wife had to go on bedrest at some point during the final months of our pregnancy. As we have already decided that she will be giving up her job and staying home with the kids for the forseeable future, bedrest would simply mean that she stops working a little early. However, our specific situation aside, I think that if there is even a chance that bed rest could be helpful during a high-risk pregnancy, then it should be prescribed the doctor. Obviously it is stressful to potentially lose income or lose a job altogether, but it will almost certainly be more psychologically damaging to lose a baby, especially if you know that you did not do everything within your power to help the baby grow to term. My wife and I made this mistake during our first pregancy, lost the baby, and she spent many months in a deep, guilt-ridden depression afterwards.

Posted by: Twins on the way | June 12, 2006 2:10 PM

After much infertility hoopla, I finally got pregnant. Had a cerclage (stitched cervix) at 13 weeks. At 16 weeks, went (with my doc's OK) to a major consultant-level training program. At 20 weeks, I was put on major bedrest, meaning 18 hours a day of bedrest. I could get up for short periods, but my daily commute and presence in the office were out of the question.

My company was terrific -- through all of this, they knew that my husband and I were relocating to DC in a couple of months anyway. They let me continue to work part time on projects from home during that time, including tying up all my loose ends and preparing training manuals they'd wanted for years but never had someone available to do. In return, I drove in to the office for a partial day each week.

I desperately needed to work to keep my sanity during the "black hole days" -- wehat we called the time between the onset of my problems and when the baby would get to 32 weeks.

Their flexibility enabled me to collect a paycheck so I could save my disability pay for later, and so that I would qualify for a year-end bonus (even though we'd moved by the time bonuses were paid). This was in 1990, long before telecommuting, and I was a mid-level analyst in my department making $30K/year. Not a big cheese, to say the least.

To handle the emotional part, I started cross-stitching a baby birth sampler. It was my statement of faith that we would get to our goal. I swore that the baby could not be born until I was done. I was going to cross-stitch that kid into life!

We are lucky to have had a happy ending -- my son was born at 37 weeks, a few days after the cerclage came out.

These days, with the pendulum swinging the other way for women trying to balance work and family, I'm sorry to say I didn't fully appreciate how good I had it at the time!

Posted by: Derwood Mom | June 12, 2006 2:14 PM


I had a nice time! Second on the father of four sharing. Miscarriages are hard on everyone, but especially the mother.

Looking for advice,

You do not want an episotomy. I can't spell it either. They are only needed if the baby needs to come out stat! I felt like the doctor gave me one becasue I interrupted her dinner and she wanted to leave.

Posted by: scarry | June 12, 2006 2:17 PM

Scarry, welcom back. While you were sunning yourself in the sand, the PTA got dragged through the mud.
Megan, 10 pounds 5 oz, natural birth? Very impressive.
What you women go through and what you all do is, well, er..., I'm looking for the word... Magic! Yep, magic is the word.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 12, 2006 2:25 PM

To Looking for Advice:

The best advice I can give on morning sickness is to try everything until you find what works for you. I spent weeks figuring out what worked the first time through (sugar, ginger, soda, big no; lemons, salt, chicken, cup a' soup, yes). With my son, I thought I had it all figured out, only to find that I couldn't stand cup a soup, loved ginger ale, and craved refried beans! For me, the sea bands didn't work but my sister-in-law swore by them. I tried phenergan once when I was hospitalized for nasuea, but it made me so loopy that I went off it a day after getting home.

I second the comments on smells as a huge trigger (for me, hot dogs = v, v bad -- no movie theaters!). And on eating before you get out of bed. And on avoiding spicy foods -- or things like chips with sharp edges, because those can hurt on the way back up. And most importantly, on forgetting the whole "ideal pregnancy diet" concept: the "ideal" pregnancy diet is anything you can keep down! As any good doctor will tell you.

Also, if you do have morning sickness, you might want to plan to eat every 2-3 hrs, and make yourself eat a little something, even if you don't feel hungry. My appetite completely disappeared during my first trimester, so I would forget to eat, but then would get really sick and get the shakes. It got much better when I just started scheduling small meals and snacks every 3 hrs, and made myself eat something even if I wasn't hungry.

Finally, if your job offers flexibility, the single best thing I was able to do was to change my schedule during the worst of it -- instead of getting to work at 7:30-8, I just slept through the worst of it, got in at 10-11, and worked later when I had the energy to make it up.

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2006 2:34 PM

father of four, I hid under the umbrella with SPF 50 on and I still got freckles.

Yeah, what's up with the PTA stuff? I hope it's really not like what people were saying.

Posted by: scarry | June 12, 2006 2:34 PM

Do pregnant women check their brains somewhere? Someone who CHOOSES to have children has unexpected complications. I am sorry but why do you then expect your co-workers to do your job. Why make someone else's life a lot more stressful so that you can reproduce. The person who thought co-workers should contribute to them from the co-workers miniscule vacation and sick time must live on another planet. It only takes 2 people for the women to get knocked up why should the village pay the consequences?

Posted by: Incredulous | June 12, 2006 3:22 PM

Back a couple of weeks ago in the books discussion, the title "Waiting for Birdy" came up several times. If anyone's interested in finding that book for cheap, I just noticed it on Amazon's under-$5 bargain list.

Posted by: Off topic | June 12, 2006 3:40 PM

Incredulous: Ah, I knew it was too nice a day here. All I can say is when you find yourself in a situation where you need the help of others, I hope those around you take a different approach than yours.

And Father of 4, that was sweet. Thanks!

Someone just sent me this link and I thought others might get a chuckle out of Monty Python's take on hospital births:

Posted by: Megan | June 12, 2006 3:43 PM

My friend (and co-author) Aviva's dad is an OB, recommends potato chips with a chaser of home-made lemonade to deal with pregnancy related nausea. It worked for some, so I am passing along the advice.

Last week Leslie and I spoke together at an event. During the course of our discussion, Leslie mentioned she had reviewed Bilston's novel about bed rest. I made no secret as to how surprised I was to learn a modern novel about bed rest did not mention online support for women on bed rest! In this day and age, so many online groups exist and are such a life line for women feeling isolated, scared, out of control, well, you name it.

I shared what I know about one such organization, Sidelines.Org. However there are many out there. Just a Google away...

I appreciate Leslie posted this information on her blog so it could be shared with more families! Thanks Leslie!

Posted by: Devra Renner | June 12, 2006 3:45 PM

To Incredulous:

Wow, bitter, much? Last I checked, no one was making YOU do anything. But if someone else in the "village" happens to care about a co-worker enough to contribute a few days of unused leave time for a SICK worker, why shouldn't that be an option? You don't approve of the reason, you don't have to participate. Period.

Sure, pregnancy is voluntary (sometimes) -- although also necessary if the human race is going to survive. Of course, smoking is also voluntary (and not necessary for the survival of the human race). Yet when my former secretary got cancer, everyone was happy to chip in leave time and cover for her on the job -- we just wished we could have done more.

Why should the "village" care? Because that's what "villages" do. Because some of us have been there and actually understand how hard it is. Because some people have empathy and compassion and recognize that the universe is fickle and that we might someday be there -- pregnancy, cancer, hit by a bus, who knows, but we might actually (gasp!) need some support from others. Because that baby might someday be your gerontologist. Because that person is a valuable employee, and we don't want to lose her by forcing her to quit or leading her to believe that no one here cares about her. Because that person has been there for us in any number of ways, and we want to find a way to help. Or maybe because we just think that going through life looking no further than the end of your nose makes for a pretty limited world.

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2006 3:54 PM

Laura, you are awesome. Thanks for that post.

Posted by: Megan | June 12, 2006 4:04 PM

What so you mean nobody is making me do anything. I worked for a company where a pregnant woman went out for bed rest. They had to hold her position so WHO do you think had to do HER work? Overtime without pay and denial of vacation time so someone else could lie in bed is not fun.

Posted by: Incredulous | June 12, 2006 4:06 PM

When I was put on hospitalized bedrest I was working part time and had no child care to speak of. I never wished so much that I worked a regular full time job and had the accompaning loving nanny or day care center to send my 2 year old all day. Nothing can make you regreat a decision to be at home as much as possible than the inability to be at home at all for over a month. But as father of 4 said friends are an amazing thing and family can help as well. I cobbled together a schedule of freinds and family to care for my son. My husband worked all day, brought the two year old to visit me each night and worried about us all the time. The whole thing was so hard on him. My condition was serious with a high potentional of (and how I love this term) a bad outcome. The entire thing was stresssful but it was also amazing to see how many people rallied to help us. And we were fortunate our baby and I did great. I cannot imagine the horror of going through all this and the baby not survive.

Posted by: Mom 79 | June 12, 2006 4:09 PM

To Incredulous:

"Overtime without pay and denial of vacation time so someone else could lie in bed is not fun."

No that wouldn't be fun. However, I think you need to take your issues with this to the right place. This is NOT the fault of the sick person (in this case a pregnant woman on bedrest but it could be any illness, surgery etc) that could have the same result to your workload. The problem there is how the management of your organization is handling it. Take your objections to the right place. Don't blame the victim.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | June 12, 2006 4:14 PM

And the real screw was that after her maternity leave was over this woman decided not to come back to work. She could have been replaced and the rest of the department could have had normal lives.

Posted by: Incredulous | June 12, 2006 4:24 PM

wow, I can't imagine why she wouldn't have wanted to return when her coworkers sound so fabulous...

Posted by: huh | June 12, 2006 4:33 PM

Please. If the woman had thought Incredulous hated her behavior, she should have resigned instead of taking leave. If she didn't think that, then it was just plain selfish of her to put her coworkers and employers through that. It's even more selfish if she *did* think Incredulous hated her behavior and was planning on leaving for it, because then she would have been stringing them all along, knowing she was just going to screw them in the end.

Posted by: To "huh" | June 12, 2006 4:47 PM

I seriously doubt she did it intentionally to "screw" her colleagues over. her complicated pregnancy and birth may very well have changed her priorities, outlook or even her ability to work. but really, who cares why she didn't come back, my point was just that incredulous sounds like a rotten collegue to have to deal with if life doesn't go exactly the way you planned. and if she was on the fence trying to decide what to do, well, i can't imagine incredulous' attitude made her feel welcome.

also, why should she have to resign bc she thinks her colleague hates her behavior - its the colleague's problem, not hers. in my experience, people like incredulous (thankfully) are in the minority, the rest of us know that sometimes people just need help.

Posted by: huh | June 12, 2006 4:58 PM

My goodness we do not know this women or anything about her child. "It's even more selfish if she *did* think Incredulous hated her behavior and was planning on leaving for it, because then she would have been stringing them all along, knowing she was just going to screw them in the end." After long months on bedrest many babies, like mine, are still delivered before term. Many peditricians do not recommend day care for preemies. And many of us simply cannot afford a nanny. So again in life, we make changes to our well laid plans, we become stay at home moms for a time, or we beg child care from family and friends, or we do countless other things to make our lives function during a very stressful time. With one of my premature babies the pediatrician advised against any communal child care setting even the nursery at church was too bing a risk. Believe me this woman did not structure her life and her complicated pregnancy to "screw you." Perhaps, her child and family just needed to be her top priority.

Posted by: Mom 79 | June 12, 2006 5:02 PM

I was on bedrest for my first pregnancy with a cerclage (stitch) and for my 2nd pregnancy, I was instructed to stop working at 26 weeks. Bedrest sucks. I was bored, depressed socially isolated and felt like my OBs during my first pregnancy were blaming me for every little set back (paternalistic jerks). My second OB was more understanding. He asked that I stop working early, but no need for strict bedrest which I agreed to, but wasn't entirely happy about. Much better experience as I could still get around and work from home.

There are very few conditions where you HAVE to be on bedrest. And the writer who said that doctors order/advise it because there is nothing else is absolutely correct. I also think there is plenty of "CYA" among OB/GYNs and not enough scientific basis to support what is a very disruptive practice. I would suggest to anyone who is "put" on bedrest by their OB to ask for the evidence that it prevents bad outcomes or ensures good outcomes.

And if I had a condition where bedrest has been shown NOT to improve outcomes--like preterm labor--I would refuse.

good luck to all who are expecting.

Posted by: Been there | June 12, 2006 5:08 PM

Have you ever considered the possibility that maybe she was unsure of whether or not she wanted to come back? Also, incredulous...that woman's kids will be paying your social security benefits. Grow up.

Posted by: momof2 | June 12, 2006 5:10 PM

It is also possible that the woman did not make a decision about returning to work until after her child was born and was "out of the woods" for insurance reasons. If she was the one who had the health insurance (and her husband didn't)there's no way she would have (or should have) resigned before the birth of her child - especially if it was a complicated pregnancy. It seems implausible that anyone would purposely take maternity leave and then not come back just to "screw" her coworkers- and if you ask any of the women here who've been on bed rest (or any other woman who has) i'm sure they would tell you it was no picnic "lying home in bed." Can you imagine being home all alone, all day, with nothing to focus on other than the thought that your child might not make it? Sounds pretty terrifying to me. I'd take working with nasty coworkers any day over that.

Posted by: DC | June 12, 2006 5:16 PM

All these people who say they have to pick up the slack for pregnant women and new moms -- why don't you use this as a great opportunity to show how hard working and responsible you are, and negotiate a raise and promotion for all the extra work you are doing? You are doing the work for your company -- not for the woman who is out on leave -- and the company should compensate you for your extra work.

Posted by: Leslie | June 12, 2006 5:16 PM

I had just turned in my crutches after an achilles tendon rupture when my wife went on bedrest 3 months before delivery. I was lucky.

1. We had made sure that we could live on my income alone.
2. My wife was working temporary jobs, so she did not worry about losing a job.
3. I had a tempoary handicapped sticker that lasted through the birth.

We relied on my wife's friends, who came over from time to time to bring dinners. One family even came on Christmas day to help us celebrate with a nice Christmas dinner.

Bed-rest is not easy. We lost one of the twins early and feared for the second when my wife went into pre-term labor at the beginning of the third trimester. She had to monitor her contractions three times a day and there were so many things that could affect the monitor. You couldn't have a full bladder, but you had to have enough in there for the machine to register correctly. You couldn't be full, but you had to have eaten recently so that your stomach didn't rumble. If you lay on your back, you were likely to get a positive reading. Not to mention that it was literally bed rest. She couldn't even sit up to type on a computer or read a book. Not to mention the constant worry.

I just blocked it all out, because I knew I had to pick up all the loose ends. Commute 40 minutes to and from work, cook dinners, make sure there was pre-cooked food for lunch, grocery shopping (this was where the handicapped sticker came in handy), as well as preparing the house for any visitors. I just ducked my head and kept pushing forward.

I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like if I had a toddler or two to help with as well. I think I would have called on my mother to come live with us a while to entertain the kids.

Posted by: Working Dad | June 12, 2006 5:19 PM

With regard to incredulous' comments--
He or she has a point, it is unfair that a sick or pregnant person's work is "dumped" on her colleagues even if the tone of her argument is rather harsh. It is up to the employer, the company, to find a way to either divvy up the work fairly, hire someone temporarily or compensate those who take on more work. When I was out with my first pregnancy, people voluntarily took over my work and got paid extra for it. I was even thanked by a colleague who bought a car with the extra money. Therefore, I did not feel guilty, no one resented my "vacation" (it sucked, was no vacation) and I came back a happy worker. This country is hypocritical when it comes to families. Businesses hate families and creates unnecessary tension between parents and non-parent workers. It also creates the educated non-working mother class which is a waste of a source of talent (and leads to suburban depression and lack of fulfillment). No need to write to say how much you loved giving up a career and how fulfilled you are, I know many people do, and that's terrific. But reality is most women cannot afford to not work and those of us who are smart and ambitious would rather eat glass than do carpool and soccer practice everyday. Society needs an attitude adjustment when it comes to families.

Posted by: Been there | June 12, 2006 5:22 PM

I did feel like I owed my company to come back even though I didn't want to, because there were coworkers who took over my slack etc. But I would have stayed home with my baby longer than six weeks if I could have.

What is hard is working for a small company with no disability and not FMLA required. Why can't all companies be certified for FMLA?

Posted by: NewMom | June 12, 2006 5:22 PM

oh my goodness, I can't believe that the nice tone of the day went south as I drove home.

What a bunch of crap. I almost lost my daughter twice while I was pregnant. I really didn't care what happened to my work while I was on bed rest. When I left I was doing a job no one else wanted to do and a job I wasn't hired to do, so of course my absence was missed.

However, if the girl who was hired to do the job had to take it back while I saved my child-GREAT. She did have a nice pair of assests (her mouth) used for kissing people's behinds.

As for people who think they pick up extra work, I really hate to say it but, your day will come. Unless, you are extremely lucky, which with your excessive amount of stress, I'll doubt you will be. And then if you are nice to me, I'll be there, to cook you diner, to loan you PTO, to send you flowers and bath gel, etc, etc. Be nice and considerate, we are talking about innocent children here, and if you don't like that, maybe you should consider another board. I here there is room over in the 'i'm grouchy and live with my cats board."

Posted by: scarry | June 12, 2006 8:59 PM

I also love the word knocked up. Classy use of words Incredulous

Posted by: scarry | June 12, 2006 9:06 PM

Leslie said "why don't you use this as a great opportunity to show how hard working and responsible you are, and negotiate a raise and promotion for all the extra work you are doing? You are doing the work for your company -- not for the woman who is out on leave -- and the company should compensate you for your extra work."

What if you are already hard working and responsible and have no free time during your day to take on someone else's work - are you supposed to work extra hours and give up precious time in your own life? It doesn't seem right if you are doing the job you are paid to do and doing it well. A raise and promotion sound nice, but not everyone wants to give up more of their personal time even if they are getting compensated.

I agree that Incredulous has a somewhat nasty tone, but he/she is entitled to their opinion. I would be extremely resentful of having mandatory overtime (even if I were getting paid extra for it). I would, however, direct my resentment to management.

What if it was a day-care worker with the problem pregnancy? How would you feel then about the co-workers taking up the slack and working harder and being more responsible? Would you want your child to be under a greater adult/child ratio while the worker was on bed rest, or would you rather see the daycare hire someone else? Would you be able/willing to pay higher rates since the daycare management would be paying 2 workers - one active and one on bedrest? Everything is not black and white in this world. It's nice to have compassion and wonderful worker benefits and flexibility, but the bottom line is that a business needs to be able to survive.

When businesses are not able to operate and hire people without offering all the benefits, then the benefits will be offered. As long as there are capable people who need jobs, the businesses will weigh all benefits carefully.

Posted by: curious | June 12, 2006 10:37 PM

Sorry -- should be "greater child/adult ratio"

Posted by: curious | June 12, 2006 10:39 PM


Day care is a bad comparision. State laws would require they hire someone else because they have to be in ratio. And, I would be supportive of her because she spent her time taking care of my child. I would ask if there was anything I could do to help her, even if it meant taking time off from work and sitting with her, making her family dinners, etc.

I also don't know what you do for a living but if you are salary, there are times when you have to work overtime without pay. I mean I can't say sorry I have to leave if someone if waiting on a document that might help save someone's life. I find the whole comments on this issue petty and childish.

The world isn't black and white, but people do have the right to have children and they have the right to be protected just like someone who gets cancer, has a heart attack, or has a drug or alcohol problem.

Posted by: scarry | June 13, 2006 7:23 AM

Man, Scarry, it's good to have you back.

Posted by: Megan | June 13, 2006 9:55 AM

1 in 5 on bed rest!? That's a clear sign that something is amiss. I doubt that women have suddenly become so sickly.

Women have simply reached their limits. They are now expected to work, go to the gym, have a nice home, eat healthy, play with the kids, enjoy marriage/relationships and find time for themselves.

Add a pregnancy to that list and you further tip the scales. Women need to know when to cut back. If they don't, then the doctor will tell them to! Some pregnancies ARE medical emergencies but most are just an additional demand on your mind, body, time, and energy. You really have to factor that in and cut back on some things to make it all work. BALANCE.

It's okay, honest, and brave to admit that you can't do everything simultaneously. Make sure your spouse/partner is aware of this, too. Multi-tasking should not be 24/7. It's not a contest. Life is very long for most American women. Don't use yourself up "doing it all" at one time! Pace yourself. "Stop to smell the roses", as my own Mom used to urge.

Please don't let your growing of a new life be just another task you have to squeeze into your day. Your baby will be much better off with healthy, sane, non-grudge-holding parents. And you may escape the dreaded bed-rest. (And the now way-too-frequent C-section! Another topic.)

Posted by: granny | June 13, 2006 10:13 AM

This is only my opinion. I think that any subject on this blog somehow incites people who don't have children for whatever reason to come and defend their lifestyle and also to dump on those of us with children. Before I had children I also resented my friends with children who wanted to get together when their children were not napping. It seemed like they were asking us, a childless couple, to adjust our precious schedule to theirs. I did not have a situation at work that required pitching in for a worker on maternity leave or on bed rest. I am sure I would have resented that too. I can say with certainly now that I was selfish and self-involved. I had NO IDEA what kind of sacrifice is required to raise a family. Only after having children I have a new appreciation of what my friends were really asking me. I have mellowed out a lot and have a new emphathy for those in need of flexibility at work. Having children changes your whole perspective on life and makes you a more compassionate person.

Posted by: i used to think like "incredulous" | June 13, 2006 10:21 AM

Yeah Megan, it's good to be back and this topic is so close to my heart that it gets me so upset.

I can't be sure if what saved my daughter was the bed rest or the terbutline, but if they would have told me to swim naked in the potomac every morning I would hae done it.

I'll tell you though the drugs made me feel like a junkie. I had the shakes, I couldn't sleep, it was awful. I had a friend back home who had to have an IV drip her whole pregnancy and she couldn't get out of bed at all. Needless to say, she isn't having anymore.

Posted by: scarry | June 13, 2006 2:37 PM

My advice on how to handle (some) of the costs: If you have the opportunity to purchase short-term disability insurance, I highly recommend it. It's one of those things you'll probably never need, but I was so glad that I had it when my easy, breezy pregnancy started going very wrong at the beginning of my third trimester. I went into premature labor at week 26 and after a two-week hospital stay, was put on modified bedrest and 24/7 medication to manage my constant contractions until I delivered at week 36. It was impossible for me to work from home, so I was forced to go on ST disability. My company offered employees the opportunity to purchase a separate short-term disability policy and administered the program for free. I had the foresight to max out the amount I could draw the year before my husband and I decided to start trying to have a family.

The fact that I went on bedrest at the very time that we bought a new house could have been much worse -- financially -- had I not had that policy.

I don't have a lot of advice on what companies can do. I worked for a small non-profit and I was a one-woman department. My duties either didn't get done -- or were absored by other already overworked individuals. That's the part for which I felt badly. But overall my company, and especially my coworkers, were incredibly supportive through a very difficult time.

Posted by: Barbara | June 13, 2006 3:38 PM


I am hourly, not salary. I never said that the person shouldn't be able to be out of work. I only said that I would resent MANDATORY overtime because of it. I don't mean staying late voluntarily once in a while to help out, but I thought the subject was about women who are put on bedrest. That could be weeks or months, and when you add maternity leave, it could be a very long time. I don't think that there are too many people willing to put in extra hours for an extended period of time. There should be another worker hired.

By the way, I am the mother of a middle-schooler and a high-schooler. The assumption that only someone who doesn't have kids wouldn't be willing to sacrifice their personal time for a co-worker is just wrong. I sacrifice plenty for family and friends, but I shouldn't be required to do it for a co-worker.

I work an 8-hour day with flextime, with no work from home (medical insurance claims - too much personal info and there are security concerns, even befor the VA stolen laptop fiasco). I have worked late to make up for a long lunch time where I had to run out for school matters, to pick up sick kids from day care, for doctor, dentist, and orthodontist appointments, etc. I have also worked late to make up time for helping out elderly parents and parents-in-law, helping out other family members with their children when needed, volunteering at school, chaperoning school trips etc. I have continued to stay in this hourly position because I like my job and I want to continue to be able to have my job support my life rather than my job becoming my life. Precisely why I never wanted a salaried position - you may make more bucks, but your time is not your own.

I work very hard at my job. Unlike some salaried positions, there is very little downtime. The claims just keep rolling in and must be processed. There is no time outside of lunch to get on the internet and read and respond to blogs as some people seem to be able to do. I enjoy my work and it was a conscious decision to stay in an hourly position because I want my time to be mine and not constantly on call and/or connected to the job. When my day is done, it is done, and then I have my life with my family.

When your little one is a teen-ager, maybe you will see it differently. They are not "safe and protected" in daycare. They are involved in school functions, after-school activities, homework, need to go to the library, to the craft store for project supplies, to a friends house for study group, etc. There is also Sunday school, church, family events, etc. With two kids, there can be overlap and neither mom nor dad can handle everything every evening.

In addition, sometimes you just want to be home for interesting conversations, to meet all the friends and have them hang out at your house instead of who knows where, and to spend time with your children who grow so quickly and will be leaving you sooner than you realize.

So, the bottom line is that I do believe that someone who needs bedrest for pregnancy, or radiation for cancer, or recovery from surgery or any other medical concern should be able to be out of work without concern for their job. That doesn't mean that the co-workers left behind should be responsible for someone else's job in addition to their own.

One solution would be to make the overtime optional/voluntary and if there aren't enough takers to make up the missed work, then hire a temp.

I know that this is long and maybe no one will read this but I wanted to express myself.

The daycare was a good example. There are indeed legal requirements for daycare ratios. However, I paid more than the going rate to have my children in a daycare that touted smaller class sizes and more adults per child as a selling point. When one of the workers was out for an extended time, the other children were reassigned to other workers. Even though the legal ratios were met, I still paid the same rates. I don't for one minute begrudge the woman her time off, but since I was paying for a higher adult/child ratio I thought they should have hired someone else or reduced their fees.

Posted by: curious | June 13, 2006 7:22 PM

I can really sympathize with the moms-to-be on bedrest.

My first pregnancy came as a total surprise, after 3 years of trying and finally being told I would likely need IVF. My husband and I were so thrilled to be pregnant that we didn't worry too much about how difficult it might be. My schedule at that time was pretty grueling -- I was a medical intern averaging 80 hours a week with *lots* of stress.

One night on call when I was about 25 weeks pregnant, I began having pretty bad pelvic pain. I toughed it out and didn't say anything until around 8 AM. My senior resident was very understanding and worried about me and insisted that I go visit the Ob-Gyn's that morning. I was horrified when they put me on the monitor and noticed that I was having contractions about every 4 minutes. They poured about 3 liters of IV fluid into me (you apparently get pretty dehydrated on call) but the contractions wouldn't stop. I couldn't help thinking about how the 25-week-old babies I had cared for in the neonatal ICU as a medical student really hadn't done all that well.

Finally they put me on terbutaline, which had many side effects. My heart was racing. I felt nervous and edgy and kept crying. My hands were so shaky I could barely sign the paperwork when it was finally time to go home.

I ended up taking a week off, which took me up to some previously scheduled vacation time, so I had 2 weeks at home total. My contractions slowed down a lot, although I continued to have them on and off for the remainder of my pregnancy and missed 2 or 3 more days for "false alarms."
I ended up delivering a gorgeous boy at 37 weeks.

Fortunately, my residency program is probably one of the most understanding in the country. We have scheduled "back up" people in case anyone gets sick (I had covered other people earlier in the year), and I was continuously told to do what was best for my baby. In addition, I didn't have other children to care for at the time and my husband was super-supportive.

While resting at home I had the opportunity to review the literature and discovered that many pregnant residents have similar problems with preterm labor and preterm delivery. They have a higher than average number of low-birth-weight infants too. I suspect that working 80-hour weeks, being on your feet for long stretches of time and the sheer stress of medical decision-making add up. (Of course, some people breeze right through it, like my Ob-gyn resident friend who delivered another woman's baby then calmly proceeded to her own labor room and gave birth to her second child!)

Anyway, I am currently 32 weeks pregnant and finishing my last year of residency. I started having contractions on and off at about 25 weeks, but not nearly as bad as before. I deliberately arranged the easiest schedule I could. When I come home after a typical 10 or 12-hour day, I put my feet up and pretty much demand that my husband watch our still-gorgeous almost-2-year-old son. Dinner is often a salad with packaged grilled chicken or even just bread and cheese with fruit. I let the housework slide and get as much sleep as I can. And I don't feel guilty about any of it!

Does bed rest really help? I'm not sure. But certainly evidence shows that overwork and high stress levels aren't good during pregnancy. And as a physician, I often give people "doctor's notes" for things that are minor in comparison to this.

My advice to women with preterm labor is:
(1)brainstorm to see if there is any way you can do part of your job from home(in my circumstance, there wasn't)
(2) cut back to part time while keeping your feet up, or
(3) just take the plunge and take some time off.

Maybe, like me, a few days or weeks at home will calm things down so you can get back to work.

Kudos to the understanding employers!

Posted by: MD and a mom | June 14, 2006 4:52 PM


You are right; I can't imagine people who have kids being upset about someone being out with pre-term labor, my mistake.

All of these comments about pre-term labor should not even be heard by the person experiencing it. These are "employer" issues. I don't have mandatory overtime either; however, I do have a job that affects many people, including you, and the women in bed on bed rest.

I won't feel differently about this when my child is older either. What is there to feel differently about? Someone might lose their kid and I have to stay late a few nights to cover, oh poor me.

Your day care situation, as a customer, was your own fault. You should have told them to hire someone, or told them you were paying the lower rate until the person came back.

The bottom line is this, if you've never heard a doctor say:

You are in labor, the baby's lungs aren't developed and she might not make it. You just can't even begin to imagine how callous these comments really sound.

If you've never felt like a junkie on the medicine they give you and worry that it's going to harm your child, then maybe you can't understand.

Or, while you sit in bed all day, alone with no family or friends around, and all you do is pray that you can make it a few more weeks so your kid can breathe and eat on her own, you just can't imagine.

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 8:26 AM


'You are right; I can't imagine people who have kids being upset about someone being out with pre-term labor, my mistake.'

You obviously have your viewpoint about this and aren't open-minded enough to actually read what other people have written. I never said I was upset about someone being out, only that I don't believe that it is right to have to do their job. And I don't mean an occasional late evening. I mean on an ongoing basis, maybe weeks or months, while they are out. I am being paid to do my job, not theirs. If I can ignore mine while doing theirs, fine. But to have to work late for an extended period of time is unreasonable. The management is responsible for seeing that the work gets done, not the individual workers.

My niece had a baby at 27 weeks that was less than 2 lbs. No one in our family cared about her job during that time because the health of her and her baby was the most important thing. I was willing to give her my support in any way, time or money. I would do the same for any of my family or friends. I don't feel obligated to do it for a co-worker.

I watched my niece's first child while she and her husband were in the hospital with the NICU baby. I wouldn't be willing to say no I can't keep her because my co-worker is out and I have to do her work. Family comes first.

As far as the daycare, I wish that I had as much power as you seem to have. When I expressed my concerns to the daycare, they gave me the choice of paying the established rate or taking my child out of the center. They just wanted to wait until the worker was able to return to work without hiring anyone else. The adult/child ratio was advertised in their brochures but not specified in the payment contracts.

Posted by: curious | June 15, 2006 12:12 PM

You are right, I do have my own opinion on this matter becasue it happened to me. I'm not saying you should have to drop your life for your co-workers. However, you may need them to work for you someday and if their attitude is the same as yours, then, you are going to be out of luck. And, wasn't someone covering for your niece while she was out.

As far as the day care goes, I don't have more power, I just have a bigger mouth. Take me with you next time.

Posted by: scarry | June 15, 2006 2:01 PM

Leslie - mmmm, I see that, indeed, you didn't like my novel much.... Oh dear; I can only say I'm truly sorry you didn't enjoy it!

But let's leave that aside, and take up the more important questions you raise. Let me be clear: I don't mind about your evaluation of my novel as a piece of literature, but I DO care about the assumptions you reveal about what's important and what's not in a novel about a high risk pregnancy. You say I dodge some "major issues," and you list some of the very important problems that do, indeed, affect bed resting women. These are issues that I talked about in my New York Times op-ed, of course.

Now, as we all know, no novel can deal with all the problems that women face. But I do deal with OTHER major issues that you yourself sidestep, or seem barely to recognize: difficulties bonding with an unborn child, for instance, and the pressure bed rest places on a marriage. in your review you indicate that ambivalence in a wanted pregnancy is an "incongruity", similarly that claims of a happy marriage are dubious when tensions evidently exist.

In my view these are not incongruities, and the novel rightly and firmly focused on these conflicted feelings. The book talks about the painful feelings of ambivalence women in high risk pregnancies may feel - feelings they may feel intensely guilty about experiencing. Many women say they will stand on their heads if that's what it takes to safeguard their baby's health - but that doesn't make it any easier to lose their freedom. And it is tremendously hard to keep a marriage happy when both parties are leading virtually separate lives.

My heroine isn't perfect; she expresses all aspects of her troubled psyche in a very difficult phase of her life, including some feelings that are not socially 'acceptable' (so to speak). I was committed to describing a pregnant woman's interior life in all its confusion. You're right to say that there are other important issues I did not address, but I think the ones I've touched on here are, in fact, tremendously important, not only for women in high risk pregnancies, but for women in all pregnancies, for all mothers, for all parents. We don't always feel what we're 'supposed' to feel; that doesn't make us 'bad' parents. It's how we respond to our feelings, and how we work to connect with our kids, that really counts in the long run. and

Posted by: Sarah Bilston | June 19, 2006 11:34 AM

PS - my comments weren't just intended for the author of the review, of course, but as part of a general discussion. I agree that the work issue is tremendously important - and the posts here prove just how incredibly hard a problem this can be. But bed rest affects many, many areas of life...

Posted by: Sarah Bilston | June 19, 2006 12:15 PM

I am sorry I just found this spot now because in reading everyone's comments, I have discovered how there are many others out there like me. At 20 weeks, I was given a cerclage due to an incontinent cervix and then ordered to bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I am now 27 weeks and have approximately 9 more weeks until the stitches are removed & I can return to some activity until birth. This is an extremely challenging experience, both for me and my husband and family (who are helping in my care).

Prior to my pregnancy complication, I was a busy career woman, and I also managed my household (for the most part) and was active with family and friends. The life change, to bed rest, has been startling & at times heartbreaking. And even though I know I am doing it for the welfare of my baby and would not do otherwise, the situation remains difficult and stressful. I feel that the mental strain is far worse than any of the physical side effects (sore muscles, weakness, etc.).

Thus far, my job has been understanding though I will be using up all of my allowable illness leave and at this time I may even have to cut short my maternity to ensure job security. Other worries include a future pregnancy (this is our first child) as we would like to have another child some day, and really just managing life in general. Prior to my experience with high-risk pregnancy, I may have lacked some sympathy, yet now I have a complete understanding of what this all means. It is such a shame that "the system" is not more amenable to family life because there are many woman like myself who are prone to problem pregnancies but who deserve to be able to be parents. For years, I took on extra work and was always helpful to others. It seems that I deserve some helping hands at this time. Everyone's time will come.

Posted by: tcsd25 | July 8, 2006 4:56 PM

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