Do you have a question for the How Do You Do It? moms? Then ask away through our Features page!
Bed rest. Those two words were my primary fear from the moment I considered getting pregnant. And when I found out I was having twins, I freaked out even more. I do not deal well with boredom or isolation, and I knew that having multiples upped my risk of being placed on restricted activity. But in truth, a twin pregnancy is not a guarantee of bedrest. Higher-order multiples, and it’s pretty close to a sure thing, but not necessarily so with “only” two babies. The HDYDI moms, naturally, run the gamut.
There are people who feel really good throughout their twin pregnancy. I swear! Snickollet even went to the gym at a whopping 38 weeks (and, may I say for the rest of us, “holy crap!”). There are indeed those among us who can keep right on going up to the day of their scheduled c-section. But even if you’re not a pregnancy superhero, you do have the potential to make it through your pregnancy without being placed in lockdown. Can bedrest be “prevented?” I’m not so sure. Whether you know it or not, your body may be prone to preterm labor, you may have cervix issues, or any number of other complications. But to whatever extent you can take care of yourself and help your pregnancy go smoothly, then I’d say go for it.
The key, in talking to many people, is to listen to your body and take it easy. Even if you exercise regularly, by the end of the first trimester, you’ll likely want and need to cut back at least on the intensity level. You’ll likely notice a slight (or huge) decrease in energy and endurance, so don’t push it. If you were a runner, maybe cut back to the elliptical machine. If you did power yoga, switch to prenatal. Low-impact, slow, easy.
I was not exercising much when I became pregnant, and was really too paranoid to start. But I cut back on other things. I noticed myself becoming easily tired around 20 weeks, so I elected to send my husband to the grocery store instead of going by myself, and made him carry the laundry up and down the stairs. Could I have done it longer? Sure. But why not take it easy for a few months? By about 28 weeks, my ankles were swelling and I was winded and getting contractions if I walked (slowly) more than a 2-3 blocks, so I stopped doing that. I spent more time lying down (on my side, drinking an unnatural amount of water, of course) in my 3rd trimester. I noticed I was getting more braxton-hicks contractions if I was on my feet too long, if I was too active, or if I didn’t have enough water.
Working is the same kind of thing. If things are going well, you may be comfortable going to work right up to 38 weeks if you have a low-stress desk job and coworkers who don’t mind that you get up to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes. If you have a job that requires long hours, time on your feet, or other stress and strain, you may want to cut back sooner, maybe around the end of the 2nd trimester. I kept working (well, I kept going to work, though perhaps not super productive…) until 34 weeks, at which point it was just too uncomfortable to be in the car for my commute or sitting at my desk. Plus, I was having twice-weekly NST/BPP at the hospital, so who had time to work? Some of the HDYDI moms worked longer than that, others stopped closer to 28 weeks or earlier.
There are some doctors who recommend/insist on routine bedrest for all twin pregnancies, starting at a particular week (I’ve heard 28, 30, 32, etc.). But most of the time, I would say that doctors mainly recommend that you just take it easy as long as things are going well, and only insist on bedrest if there is a particular indication to do so. One relatively universal restriction, though, is on travel. By about 24-28 weeks, most doctors will insist that you stop traveling (I traveled at 22 and was plenty uncomfortable), and especially after about 28 weeks, they probably want you to be within 30-60 minutes of the hospital pretty much at all times. Around 28-32 weeks is a particularly touchy time as far as preterm labor goes, as it’s a somewhat more common time for preterm labor, but a difficult gestational age with regard to NICU times and good outcomes for the babies. Not the time to be several hours out in the countryside… just in case.
Things can and do happen to indicate bedrest, either modified, complete, at home, or in the hospital. LauraC had her first pre-term labor scare at 21 weeks, and was on some version of rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. Cynthia already had a history of pre-term delivery, so was watched extra carefully and when pre-term labor hit at nearly 28 weeks, was on full bedrest for the next 7 weeks until her boys were born. Our resident triplet mom (a new contributor you’ll be hearing from soon!) takes the cake, with modified bedrest at home at 16 weeks, and hospital bedrest at 21. Others had bouts of restrictions after an episode of bleeding or contractions, or were otherwise just told to stop going up and down the stairs, or lifting heavy things (like a toddler!). “Modified bedrest” is a tricky phrase, and can mean anything from “stop working 12-hours shifts as a nurse” to “only use the stairs once a day.” Often the restrictions are just an important illustration of how “easy” you should be taking it. Complete bedrest generally means that you have to be lying down nearly the entire day, only getting up to go to the bathroom (or sometimes not even that, if you’re in the hospital). The range of possibilities is all over the map.
While there are arguments to be made about the effectiveness of bedrest in some situations, our general feeling is to err on the side of caution. Is it fun? No. But if it means your kids have a chance to be born at 35 weeks instead of 32, then we’re all for it. I’ve heard it said that every extra day they can spend in your belly is worth 3-7 days in the NICU. It’s worth it to keep them in there as long as you can. You can survive bedrest. Make sure you have a good stash of food and water. Plenty of books and trashy magazines. A laptop and wireless internet access. A TV, DVD player, and a subscription to Netflix. Call old friends, hit the Babycenter bulletin boards, start a blog. Have a schedule of friends and family to come visit you and bring lunch. Just try to restrain yourself from shopping online all day long. It can get expensive.
A word on multiple-pregnancy intimacy (yeah, it’s not a pretty image). Unless your doctor has instructed you to be on “pelvic rest” (boy, do I love that phrase!), there’s often no reason that you have to avoid sex during pregnancy. There are sometimes reasons to avoid it, such as cervical issues or placenta previa. But if your pregnancy is going smoothly, it is not generally recommended that you must avoid sex. If you’re feeling good and are game for a some interesting physical logistics (what with the enormous belly in the way and all), more power to ya.
You never know how this one’s going to go. Some people are hideously uncomfortable and the thought of sex could not possibly be less appealing. Some people are all aglow with life, and discover the fabled 2nd trimester sex drive (I swear it’s a myth, but my friend said it happened with her, and my husband kept waiting for it to happen with me… and waiting… and waiting…). Some men are a touch freaked out by the fact that there’s a person (or two or three) inside your belly, or have conflicting feelings about this new body of yours. Some think a pregnant wife is the most gorgeous and appealing thing he’s ever seen (and might be kind of grateful for the pregnancy boob fairy).
We’ve all heard the stories of women past their due date being advised to try sex to stimulate labor, which is generally enough to freak out those of us who lived in fear of going into labor too early. Every respectable thing I’ve read, though, says that sex itself will not spontaneously bring on labor if your body isn’t already inclined to do so. Though I will say that I… know someone… who was late in her twin pregnancy, whose body was clearly changing and getting ready to deliver for a week prior, and who may or may not have knowingly agreed to sex with her husband half-hoping it would get the show on the road, and and who may or may not have immediately afterwards started contracting every six minutes, and who may or may not have delivered her babies the next morning. As I said, sex won’t just start labor if your cervix is closed and you’re not contracting and all of that. But maybe, if you’re near the end, and have been contracting for a week, and the babies have dropped….
What about you, dear readers? Were you on any kind of bed rest or restricted activity? Did your doctor have a set date at which (s)he’d send you to the couch, or more of a wait-and-see attitude? If you did spend a lot of time lying around, how did you survive the boredom and loneliness aspect?