Bed rest is commonly prescribed during pregnancy to alleviate certain pregnancy complications. Some women know it is coming because of their medical history, whereas others are surprised during a routine checkup. Bed rest is common, so don’t be alarmed.
Bed rest will differ from woman to woman and may range from simple periodic resting at home to full bed rest with monitoring in a hospital. Some women will discover that their health care provider places them on bed rest for a brief period to help a complication stabilize, whereas other women may be placed on bed rest throughout most of their pregnancy.
What are the reasons for bed rest?
Your health care provider may prescribe bed rest for any number of reasons, but in all cases it is to increase the probability that you continue with a healthy pregnancy.
Here is a list of complications that may lead to bed rest:
- High blood pressure, such as preeclampsia, and eclampsia
- Cervical changes, such as incompetent cervix, and cervical effacement
- Vaginal bleeding
- Premature labor
- History of pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or premature birth
- Poor fetal development
- Gestational diabetes
- Placenta complications, such as placental abruption, placenta previa, and placenta accreta
- How will bed rest help?
In most cases, bed rest is used to give the body its best chance to normalize. Bed rest will be used with women who have conditions related to high blood pressure in order to decrease stress and lower blood pressure. Work, activity, lifting, or exercise may worsen or provoke certain situations, so bed rest may be prescribed to reduce vaginal bleeding or decrease the chance of premature labor. Bed rest may also be necessary to help increase blood flow to the placenta.
What is the best position for bed rest?
The best position for bed rest will depend on your situation and what complication your health care provider is trying to address or prevent. In most cases, your healthcare provider will request that you sleep and rest on your side, usually with your knees or hips bent, and maybe with a pillow between your knees.
You may be asked to lie on your back while being propped up with pillows or to lie on your back with your hips or legs elevated higher than your shoulders. Learn more about sleeping positions during your pregnancy.
How can I deal with bed rest discomforts?
Bed rest will tend to cause your muscles to lose tone and make some of your joints ache. Lying down for long periods of time can also reduce your blood circulation. Changing from side to side will help stimulate your muscles and relieve pressure.
Exercise is important for your blood circulation, but make sure that you visit with your health care provider before you begin any exercises.
Below are common exercises that may be used:
- Squeezing stress balls
- Pressing your hands and feet against the bed
- Turning your arms and feet in circles
- Tensing or tightening your arm and leg muscles
Avoid using your abdominal muscles when you are stretching or exercising. Again, consult with your health care provider about the best ways for you to get exercise in your situation.
“Do’s” and “Don’ts” during bed rest:
The “do’s” and “don’ts” during bed rest will vary from woman to woman, depending on your situation and the reasons that bed rest is prescribed by your health care provider. It is important to get a clear understanding of what is allowed during your bed rest period.
In most cases, bed rest will require that you avoid lifting, exercising, or any strenuous activity.
Here is a list of activities to discuss with your health care provider:
- Light chores
- Bath or shower
- Sexual intercourse
If your bed rest occurs for a long period of time, it is important to discuss exercises or activities that you are allowed to do to keep your blood circulating.
How can I make the best of bed rest?
Bed rest may sound fun, but it is usually challenging for most women, particularly if it is for longer periods.
There are a number of activities you can engage in to make your bed rest a more positive experience:
Establish a routine: Bed rest may make you feel as if you are not in control. Establish a routine to help you feel more in control of your situation. Change into comfortable clothes and have a schedule for the day.
Spring cleaning: Ok, yes you are stuck in bed, but this is an excellent opportunity to organize photo albums, make changes to address books, update recipes, or work on other projects that need attention.
Connect with friends: After the baby arrives you will be busy, so visiting with friends may be difficult. Use this time to make phone calls to your friends.
Baby preparations: Bed rest provides you with an opportunity to get organized and plan for the baby. You can begin planning for baby names, a baby registry, a new will, guardianship, insurance, baby announcements, thank you notes and financial matters. You may also use this time to order nursery items on the internet or the phone.
Medical preparations: Bed rest will also give you time to research and plan to deal with a complication. You can get online or read books to discover how you can be prepared for handling an early delivery or other complications.
Allow friends and family to help: Your family and friends care about you and are interested in helping you out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with meals, household chores or errands. You may even find that people will call to ask what they can do to help. Make it easier on yourself by having a “to do” list with you.
Become a parenting expert: Bed rest provides you with an excellent opportunity to search the internet, read books, and go through baby and parenting magazines to gain information on parenting.
Love those around you: Bed rest will require those around you to invest more time in chores and activities that you may normally have handled. Take this time to do something for them to show your appreciation such as make a card, write a letter, or order a special gift.
Get organized: Being confined to the bed does not mean that you cannot be productive, whether it is accomplishing things for your family, your home, or just doing something for yourself.
Here is a checklist of items you may want near the bed or couch:
- Telephone, directory and address book
- Pens, pencils and paper
- Brush, comb, and mirror
- Books, magazines, or other reading materials
- Remote controls to the TV and VCR
- Laptop computer
- Cosmetics, nail files, etc.
Compiled using information from the following source:
Nemours Foundation, http://kidshealth.org/index.html