Bed rest 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 bed rest or full bed rest. Partial bed rest usually means it's usually okay to sit, stand, or walk around for short periods of time. It is sometimes called modified bed rest. Full bed rest 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 bed rest. 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 bed rest easier.
Why would you be put on bed rest?
Your doctor may put you on bed rest if you have preeclampsia 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 bed rest if you have serious health problems during your pregnancy.
Sometimes bed rest 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 bed rest is not often recommended by many doctors. This is because bed rest has not been shown to help prevent certain problems, such as preventing preterm birth.1
Be sure to talk with your doctor about the reasons for your bed rest. 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 best rest?
What you can do depends on whether you are on partial or full bed rest. 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 bed rest?
The biggest risk for women on bed rest 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.
Bed rest 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 labor and to care for your new baby.
It is normal to have a hard time adjusting to life on bed rest. 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 bed rest 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 bed rest.
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):
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.