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What is bedrest?
Bedrest is limiting physical activity during your pregnancy. It can last a few weeks or even months. It may be at home or in the hospital.
Your doctor may put you on partial bedrest or full bedrest. Partial bedrest usually means it's usually okay to sit, stand, or walk around for short periods of time. It is sometimes called modified bedrest. Full bedrest usually means you need to lie down most of the day except when you go to the bathroom or take a bath or shower. But every woman and every pregnancy is different. So the amount of activity you can do will depend on your doctor's recommendations.
It's normal to feel many emotions when you find out that you need to be on bedrest. You may feel frustrated, sad, or stressed. Some women even feel relieved. It may help to focus on how you are helping to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. There are also many things you can do to make your time on bedrest easier.
Why would you be put on bedrest?
Your doctor may put you on bedrest if you have pre-eclampsia or are pregnant with multiple babies. Or it may be recommended if you have a problem with the placenta or the cervix. Your doctor may also prescribe bedrest if you have serious health problems during your pregnancy.
Sometimes bedrest is prescribed if there is a high risk of having your baby early. This is called preterm birth.
It is important to know that full bedrest is not often recommended by many doctors. This is because bedrest has not been shown to help prevent certain problems, such as preventing preterm birth.footnote 1
Be sure to talk with your doctor about the reasons for your bedrest. The more you understand about the pros and cons, the easier it may be to follow your doctor's advice.
What can you do and not do on bedrest?
What you can do depends on whether you are on partial or full bedrest. Talk with your doctor about what kinds of activities are okay to do. Ask if it's okay to lift, bathe, do housework, drive, walk, take stairs, and exercise.
It is also important to discuss sex. Ask your doctor what kinds of sexual activities are okay during the rest of your pregnancy.
Are there any risks from bedrest?
The biggest risk for women on bedrest is blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) in your leg or lungs. The best way to reduce your risk of these clots is to regularly flex your feet and to stretch and move your legs.
Bedrest may also make your muscles weak. Ask your doctor if there are some leg and arm exercises you can do. The stronger your body, the more energy and strength you will have for labour and to care for your new baby.
It is normal to have a hard time adjusting to life on bedrest. But if you feel depressed or sad for a few weeks, talk to your doctor. You may need treatment for depression.
What can you do to make bedrest easier?
Keep your body as comfortable as possible.
- Lie on your side instead of your back. That can help your back feel better. It can also help protect your baby. This is because lying flat on your back can prevent blood from getting to your uterus and baby. For this reason, it's important to train yourself to sleep on your side.
- Use extra pillows for support. When you lie on your side, you may want to put them between your knees or under your belly. When you sit up, you may want to put pillows under your back and legs.
Stay connected and supported.
- Keep things near your bed that may help pass the time and keep you connected and organized. These may include a phone and a pen and paper. They could also include magazines, books, a laptop, an electronic tablet, or an MP3 player.
- Find a support group online, a social networking site, or a telephone hotline for women on bedrest.
- Get help with child care, if needed.
- Ask family and friends to stop by for a visit.
- Ask close friends to bring meals.
- If you have a job that allows you to work from the phone or computer, ask your doctor if you can work from home. And have your partner work from home, if possible.
Tackle some tasks
See this time as an opportunity. Do things that can be hard to find time to do.
- Do craft projects.
- Write letters or thank-you notes.
- Do crossword, jigsaw, or number puzzles.
- Organize photo albums, scrapbooks, recipes, or addresses.
- Take a free online course in an interesting topic.
Prepare for your new baby
Use this time to get ready for the arrival of your baby.
- Learn about birth, feeding your baby, immunizations, and parenting.
- Shop online for the baby or his or her room. Or make a list of things you need for the baby.
- Make a list of ways that your partner, friends, and family could help get ready for the baby. This may include researching baby names, setting up a baby registry, planning a baby shower, or adding your baby to your insurance.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2012). Management of preterm labor. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 127. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 119(6): 1308–1317.
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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