Bed rest during pregnancy

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Your doctor’s orders to stay in bed for a few days or weeks might seem like a welcome break. But you will find that bed rest during pregnancy can be as much work as it is a break.

You might not be able to work, do things around the house, or spend time with other family members the way you normally do. If you're on complete bed rest during pregnancy, you might not even be able to shower or eat when sitting up.

Bed rest means you will need to quickly adjust to doing things differently. You will need to find ways to pass the time and ask for help with all of the things that you normally do.

Why Do I Need Bed Rest?

Your health care provider may order bed rest to help you continue with a healthy pregnancy. If you have any of these problems, you may need bed rest:

  • High blood pressure
  • Premature or preterm changes in the cervix
  • Problems with the placenta
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Early labor
  • More than one baby
  • History of early birth or miscarriage
  • Your baby is not growing well
  • Your baby has medical problems

Bed rest does not guarantee that problems with your pregnancy will get better. It is just a safeguard.

What Is the Best Position for Bed Rest?

The best position for bed rest is on your side, with the left side being preferred and the right side as an alternative when the left gets sore. It helps to rest with your knees or hips bent. You may want to use a pillow between your knees to relieve stress on your back.

How Can I Deal with Discomfort from Bed Rest?

Bed rest can make your body ache. Switching from side to side every so often will help move your muscles and relieve pressure.

Movement and activity will also help keep your blood flowing. Here are some exercises that may help. Talk to your health care provider before you start any activity:

  • 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

Try not to use your belly muscles if you are stretching or exercising. Keep in mind that you should talk to your doctor before you do any stretching or exercising while on bed rest.

What You Can or Cannot Do While on Bed Rest

The dos and don’ts during bed rest will depend on your situation. Most often, bed rest will require that you avoid:

  • Lifting
  • Exercise
  • Any activity that strains your body

Ask Your Doctor

If you should limit yourself from doing any of these:

  • Cooking
  • Light chores·
  • Walking
  • Bathing or showering
  • Driving
  • Having sex

If you will be on bed rest for a long time, you will need to get enough movement each day to keep your blood circulating. Talk to your doctor about safe activity you can do while on bed rest.

How to Cope with Bed Rest

Remember that each day of bed rest brings you one day closer to the birth. In the meantime, try to:

  • Get organized. Make sure what you need is within reach -- like a phone, laptop, drinks and snacks, the remote control, and extra pillows and blankets.
  • Beat boredom.This is a great time to focus on the baby. Shop online for baby goods. Knit a baby sweater. Ready baby books or watch baby programs on TV. Do things to keep your mind busy.
  • Accept help.When friends and loved ones ask what they can do, put them to work -- mowing the lawn, cleaning the bathroom, or keeping you company.
  • Seek support. Connect with other moms who know what you are going through. Talk to friends who have been in your shoes. Check for support groups, bulletin boards, and chat rooms online for moms-to-be on bed rest.
  • Expect emotional ups and downs. Share your hopes and worries with your partner. Let each other vent if needed. If sex isn't allowed, look for other ways to show your love. Take time to kiss, hug, and cuddle.


Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/15/2012
  • Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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