Make a Choice: Your Baby or Your Income

Amy Kuras

bedImagine being told by your doctor that you have to go on bed rest and suddenly you're facing the choice between your health and that of your baby, or your income and livelihood.

That's what happens to countless women who are told, often with no warning, that they need to get into bed and stay there to ward off premature labor and pre-eclampsia. Bosses, understandably, don't like this; it's one thing when you can plan for covering your responsibilities when you are on maternity leave, but a sudden disappearance from the office weeks or months ahead of schedule can really throw a wrench into your work life.

And that's if you can take a maternity leave at all; most low-wage workers can't afford much of one, if any, which makes bed rest an even bigger financial risk.

Further complicating this is that there isn't a standard length of time to be on bed rest, nor is there a standard x equals y sort of diagnosis that requires it. Some studies show it doesn't help at all in warding off premature labor, while other doctors believe it helps keep blood pressure down and takes pressure off the cervix, so it's beneficial.

This very informative post by Amie Newman on RH Reality Check talks about the truly scary issues women, especially lower-income women, face when their doctor orders bed rest. Short-term disability policies will sometimes cover you in the event of being restricted to bed rest, and the Family and Medical Leave Act does require your employer to hold a comparable job for you, if you work at a place with more than 50 employees.

Of course, many people planned to use that time for maternity leave and have adjusted their finances carefully to account for a certain amount of time off work ... any more and things start looking pretty scary. And again, that's if you have enough income to be able to plan for some time out of work; if you live paycheck to paycheck, you're in real trouble when bed rest stretches weeks or even months.

We are one of only four developed nations not to offer its citizens some type of leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. Protecting your and your baby's health shouldn't mean risking all your financial security. As a matter of fact, having a baby is one of the major causes of "poverty spells": a temporary inability to pay for necessities like food and rent. That's just not fair.

Were you put on bed rest? How did you cope, financially and otherwise?

Image via geishaboy500/Flickr

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