What is bed rest?
Bed rest can mean literally resting in bed at home, partly restricting your activity, or being monitored in the hospital. Nearly 20% of pregnant women are prescribed some form of bed rest each year. If you have been prescribed bed rest, it means that your healthcare provider is concerned about a condition that may prevent you from carrying your baby to full term. While a period of bed rest can interrupt your routine, it may be helpful in carrying your pregnancy to full term.
What are the most common reasons bed rest is prescribed?
- Preeclampsia: a potentially dangerous condition that includes swelling, increased blood pressure, and protein in the urine.
- Vaginal bleeding: may be due to placenta previa (low-lying placenta) or abruption placenta (premature separation of the placenta).
- Premature labor: labor that begins before the baby is considered full term.
- Incompetent cervix: a weak cervix that may open prematurely.
- Cervical effacement: thinning of the cervix.
- Multiple pregnancy: carrying 2 or more babies.
- Previous pregnancy complications: can include fetal loss, stillbirth, or premature birth.
- Poor fetal development.
- A test or procedure that indicates a medical complication.
Do I have to stay in bed all day or can I move around?
This will depend on the reason your healthcare provider has prescribed bed rest for you. Some women must remain in bed or on a comfortable couch most of the time, while others may only need to slightly restrict their activity.
If your healthcare provider has advised you to rest most of the time, the following activity guidelines may apply to you.
- Short walk to the bathroom.
- Sitting in a chair up to 1 hour.
- Short walks in your home (no longer than ½ hour).
- Standing for short periods of time in your home (no longer than ½ hour).
- Working at a desk for less than 1 hour, but only if there is no stress and if help is available if needed (either on site or by phone).
- Limited stair climbing.
- A brief shower once a day.
Activities that are not permitted:
- Activity that lasts more than 1 hour.
- Heavy lifting.
- Placing anything in your vagina.
- Sexual activity.
Your healthcare provider will be able to give you specific information about your medical condition and activity level.
Do I have to lie on my side during bed rest?
Many women are advised to lie on their side during bed rest, usually on whichever side is most comfortable. Your healthcare provider will determine what positions would be best for you.
Can I drive myself to office visits?
Depending on the type of bed rest prescribed, your healthcare provider may tell you to have someone else drive you to the office. While you may be permitted to walk from the front entrance to the office, you should avoid long walks and standing for long periods of time.
Will I be able to take care of my other children while on bed rest?
If your healthcare provider has advised strict bed rest for you, will have to make arrangements for child care both during the day and at night. While challenging, try to provide some stability in your other children’s schedule or routine. Engage in activities with your children, such as watching a DVD together, helping them with homework, or reading stories together.
How can I prevent becoming constipated during my bed rest?
Eating a well-balanced diet with extra fiber and drinking enough water may help prevent constipation. If constipation becomes a problem, your healthcare provider may advise you to take a bulk laxative, such as Metamucil®, or a stool softener, such as Colace®.
Are there any exercises I can do while lying down?
Check with your healthcare provider for safe ways to exercise while on bed rest. Can you move from side to side? Are you able to lie propped up with pillows under your knees and back for support?
Does bed rest really prolong pregnancy?
Some healthcare professionals disagree about the benefits of bed rest. While there is no solid research to either for or against bed rest, many healthcare providers believe it is worth trying if it may increase the chances of a successful, full-term pregnancy.
What can I do while on bed rest?
Bed rest can be challenging so it is important to be organized and establish a daily routine. Get washed up and dressed every day. Make sure that you have needed items close by such as your computer, phone, TV remote, books, pen and paper or cards, your address book and stamps, hand sanitizer, lip balm, tissues, healthy snacks and water and lotion. Decrease your feelings of boredom by reading, calling, emailing or texting friends, scrapbooking, working on or learning a craft such as knitting. It is important to allow family members and friends to help when you are on bed rest.
Are there any side effects to being on bed rest?
In addition to feeling tired and isolated, you may experience muscle and joint pain, backache and dizziness. A physical therapist or a massage therapist may be able to help you deal with these conditions. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before undergoing any therapy.
Can bed rest affect my postpartum recovery?
This depends on how long you have been on prescribed bed rest. If you have been inactive for a long time, you may experience muscle weakness and a lack of energy after your delivery. Again, a physical therapist or a massage therapist may be able to help you minimize these effects. Having help during the postpartum time is important. In those first few weeks, try to rest or sleep when your baby sleeps, eat healthy food and snacks and delegate chores so that you can recover.
Will my job be in jeopardy if I take time off for prescribed bed rest?
Bed rest, as prescribed by your medical provider, is a medical reason for your absence from work and therefore should not affect your employment status.