Pregnant Ladies: Bed Rest Can Kill You

Jeanne Sager
14

Two Kisses for MaddyIt's the story of a pregnant woman who did all the right things for her baby. She followed doctors' orders. She went on bed rest for more than a month, first at home and then in a hospital bed. But Matt Logelin's new book, Two Kisses for Maddy, wouldn't exist if it weren't for the way Liz Logelin's body betrayed her. She gave up everything for their baby girl, even her life.

Liz Logelin died 27 hours after she gave birth. And it wasn't in a rural hospital in a third world country. She wasn't an older mom, well past her childbearing years and pushing the limits of science. She was 30, in a respected California hospital. But just over a month of bed rest -- a common medical practice in American pregnancies -- claimed her life.

Liz died of a pulmonary embolism as she was getting up for the first time since her bed rest began, hoping to walk down the hall to the NICU to see daughter Madeline for the first time since she was born via C-section, seven weeks early but surprisingly healthy. Her story and that of her widower Matt and daughter Maddy has become a touchstone for the grieving as Matt has blogged about single parenthood in the wake of loss since experiencing life and death in the span of just two days in March 2008.

And now it's a book, Two Kisses for Maddy, a book that's at once horrifying to comprehend and haunting as Matt learns to live for his daughter. It's being touted as a love story from father to daughter, and indeed it is. Sent as a review copy to The Stir by the publishers, I devoured it in one day, unable to detach from the story of a little girl growing physically as her father grew emotionally. Logelin is a writer who imbues tragedy with humor, the written word with an emotion that travels out of the page and up the arm to the heart.

But I couldn't help focusing on the love story of a mother and a child from which it sprang. As pregnant women, we all give up little things for our babies. Our glass of wine with dinner, our favorite soft cheese, our figures, our breasts. Liz Logelin, on the other hand, gave the ultimate sacrifice for her child. She took to bed because low amniotic fluid put Madeline at risk, and she stayed there for five weeks, while a clot unknowingly formed and later moved up to the lungs, cutting off oxygen-rich blood and snuffing out her young life.

Bed rest is so common that an estimated 700,000 (about one in five) women will be prescribed it during pregnancy. Traditionally, women hear about the smaller sacrifices this entails -- discomfort, emotional distress, being forced to use up maternity leave time they'd prefer to save for after baby comes. But as Logelin's book lands on The New York Times bestseller list, the story of a father's love should turn on a light bulb for the hundreds of thousands of women sent to bed this year as they wait for baby to arrive. It's rare, but this so-called medical advancement that's meant to protect a baby can kill you.

In fact the most common cause of pulmonary embolism is a blood clot, often brought on by extended bed rest. It's the most extreme of the bed rest risks, which also include decreased bone mass, cardiovascular and muscular deconditioning, increased chance of urinary tract infection, constipation, loss of range of motion in the joints, and depression. These are the warnings that the stories of "how to keep yourself occupied during your bed rest" don't tell you. These are the warnings that mothers need to know.

Not to be scared but to be empowered, to be prepared. I'm pretty sure most moms when reading Matt Logelin's book will say they would have done what Liz Logelin did, would give up everything for the sake of the person growing inside of them. Matt Logelin's love story to his wife and to his daughter has given other women a chance to plan ahead, to plan for the "what if," to help their significant others in the case that theirs is one of those rare sad stories of bed rest gone wrong, to give once again to their children.

Did you have to go on bed rest during pregnancy? Did you know about the risks?

 

Image via Matt Logelin

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