Learn the reasons for bed rest during pregnancy, what it is and how to cope successfully if you are placed on bed rest during pregnancy.
What is bed rest?
If you have been faced with the possibility of going on bed rest, you might be wondering what to expect.
According to the Medical Dictionary, bed rest is the maintenance of the recumbent position, in bed, to minimize activity and facilitate recovery from disease.
In the case of bed rest in pregnancy, your activities will be restricted either partially or completely in an effort to maintain your pregnancy.
Before we look at the reasons for bed rest during pregnancy, you need to know which type of bed rest you have been placed on.
Types of bed rest when pregnant:
Depending on the level of activity restrictions given by your doctor, bed rest can be categorized into one of these 3 types of bed rest.
1. Modified bed rest
Your doctor might ask you to reduce the amount of activity you are doing. They may also ask you to reduce your hours at work or to stop working completely.
However, with modified bed rest you can still walk around and do light duties around the home. No heavy lifting, intense exercises or standing for long amounts of time and you will also be required to rest often.
You may also be asked to go on pelvic rest.
2. Strict/ Complete bed rest
In strict bed rest, there is more activity restriction involved. In my case, I was placed on strict bed rest after I went into premature labor and had to have a cervical cerclage placed to maintain my pregnancy.
On strict bed rest, you might only be allowed to get up to use the toilet and to shower. You also will need to remain in a reclining position or lying in bed to take the pressure off of your cervix.
It is important to clarify from your doctor exactly what you can and cannot do while on strict bed rest since many activities are prohibited.
3. Hospital bed rest
In cases where your pregnancy needs constant monitoring, the doctor might recommend a hospital bed rest. This basically means that you will be admitted in the hospital where you will undergo the required monitoring. You will obviously spend a lot of time in the hospital bed and will not be able to do your normal activities.
Light physical therapy sessions may be prescribed to help with the effects of being inactive for prolonged periods.
What is pelvic rest?
Pelvic rest simply requires you to avoid activities that may increase pressure to your pelvic area in order to avoid complications. It is recommended where one has an increased risk of preterm labor and/or if you have undergone an abdominal surgery.
If your doctor asks you to only observe pelvic rest, you will most likely be able to do most of your daily activities. Some of the things you will need to avoid when on pelvic rest:
- sexual intercourse & orgasms from other means
- Lower body exercises, squatting
- Using tampons
Reasons for bed rest During Pregnancy
Certain pregnancy conditions can cause you to be placed on bed rest or be asked to restrict your activities.
Why your doctor might place you on bed rest during pregnancy.
Here are some of those reasons:
- Preeclampsia or eclampsia (high blood pressure induced by pregnancy): Bed rest is used to try and keep the pregnancy long enough to ensure safe delivery.
- Expecting multiples: When expecting multiple babies your pregnancy may come with its challenges and for that reason, you may end up being placed on bed rest.
- Cervical changes: cervical incompetence or having a short cervix like in my case.
- Premature/ Preterm labor: if you go into labor before 37 weeks you might be placed on bed rest so as to delay delivery. This is to give time for steroids to be administered so that they can help accelerate lung development in the baby.
- History of pregnancy loss, stillbirth or premature birth
- Placenta complications: placenta previa, placenta abruption, and placenta accreta
- Vaginal bleeding
- Poor fetal development
What you need to know about bed rest
If your doctor asks you to go on bed rest, you need to know exactly what your do’s and don’t’s are. Depending on your doctor and your unique circumstance, your restricted activities may not be the same as someone else who is also on bed rest.
To make sure that you know what to do and what to avoid, here are some areas you need to discuss with your doctor for clarity:
Position – is it okay to sit upright and for how long? Is there a preferred position when lying down?
Personal Hygiene – is it okay to walk to the bathroom for a shower, going to the toilet, etc. ?
Chores – is it okay to do light duties? Can you cook, do laundry, sit at the dinner table?
Driving – is it okay to drive?
Exercise – What kind of exercises are allowed if any? Can you take a short walk around the block?
Sexual intercourse – Can you have sex? What about masturbation, oral sex and the use of adult toys?
It’s important to know what exactly is allowed and what is not. For you and baby’s safety, always call your doctor for guidance when you are in doubt about certain activities.
How early in pregnancy can you be put on bed rest?
I was placed on modified bed rest at 20 weeks and strict bed rest at 24 weeks. I have also interacted with women who were placed on bed rest as early as 15 weeks.
To reduce certain risks, some times you can be placed on bed rest in the first trimester. It is not always necessary to stay on bed rest for the entire pregnancy.
Depending on the reason why you were on bed rest, your doctor might decide to take you off if they feel that the risk has significantly reduced.
How do you cope when on bed rest during pregnancy? Some tips you can use.
Being on bed rest can get frustrating pretty quickly and it’s important to keep yourself engaged.
Here are some tips to help you cope:
- Stay positive – write letters to your baby, keep a gratitude journal and try to focus on things that you can enjoy even with all the restrictions.
- Have some structure – Creating a routine around your day can make it easier for you to cope as you will have things to look forward to.
- Activities – find things to do that can keep you busy within your restrictions. Check out my list of things to do while on bed rest for ideas.
- Ask for help – There is a lot you are not able to do so feel free to ask for help from your village. Simple things like a friend delivering hot meals go a long way in making for a peaceful bed rest experience.
- Follow your doctor’s orders – It can get really hard to be on bed rest and you might be tempted to push yourself a little more than you are allowed but please don’t. Following your doctor’s direction will go a long way in reducing the risks that led you to bed rest in the first place.
- Do light exercises if and as allowed by your doctor – Find out what exercises you can do while on bed rest and stretch your body so that you don’t become stiff due to inactivity. If you are allowed to walk, do take a walk and get some fresh air.
What exercises can you do on bed rest?
I personally tried a couple of exercises that I could do while lying in bed as allowed by the doctor.
Here are some exercises that you can try:
- Stretching your hands and feet to press against the bed
- Turn your arms and your feet around in circles.
- Turn your neck around in circles
- Lift your head up and down pressing your chin against your chest.
I also used this Youtube video to identify some exercises which I could do without straining my pelvic area ( Not all of them were comfortable for me)
PS: When stretching or exercising you should avoid using your abdominal muscles. Always consult your doctor before engaging in any of these exercises.
According to the Mayo Clinic, strict bed rest is no longer recommended for most conditions. It is only used in rare circumstances. If your doctor recommends it for you make sure you understand all your options. And focus on staying positive and preparing to meet your baby.
Did you find this helpful? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to share with us your bed rest experience.