Authored by Revere Health

How to Manage Bed Rest During Your Pregnancy

October 12, 2016 | OB/GYN

Pap Smears

Although bed rest sounds like a ticket to heaven for some pregnant women, it can feel like a sentence to jail for others. Women with previous  high-risk pregnancies may expect to be prescribed prolonged bed rest at some point in their pregnancy. But if bed rest is new for you, you’re probably wondering how you’ll make it through the challenges posed by bed rest during pregnancy.

Reasons for bed rest

Most studies on bed rest have not found evidence that it lowers the risk of complications or preterm birth, and although doctors are recommending it less frequently today, almost “one out of five women is on restricted activity or bed rest at some point during her pregnancy,” according to WebMD.

The Mayo Clinic advises that bed rest does increase blood flow to the placenta and can slightly increase a baby’s birth weight. What are some of the circumstances and conditions that might lead your OB/GYN to feel that bed rest is a valuable safeguard and a good option at some point in your pregnancy? Some reasons include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Placenta complications, such as placental abruption, placenta previa and placenta accreta
  • Cervical changes, such as incompetent cervix or cervical effacement that might cause the cervix to dilate prematurely
  • Contractions and other advanced signs of preterm labor
  • Signs, symptoms or test results indicating poor fetal development
  • High blood pressure, such as preeclampsia or eclampsia
  • History of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth
  • • Gestational diabetes
  • A twin or multiple pregnancy

What does “bed rest” actually mean for you?

“Bed rest” can mean anything from a slight decrease in your activity level to only being allowed to sit or recline for most of the time except while toileting and showering. In stricter cases, women may have to lie on their sides at all times and make do with bedpans and sponge baths.

Once your doctor has explained why you need bed rest and for how long, be sure you ask clarifying questions to learn exactly what this means for you:

  • Can I go to work?
  • Can I drive a car?
  • Can I do normal household chores and take care of my other kids?
  • Do I have to stay in bed all the time?
  • Can I get up to shower or use the bathroom?
  • Can I climb the stairs?
  • Should I avoid lifting anything heavy?
  • Do I need to lie on one side or stay in a certain position?
  • Is sexual activity OK? If so, what kinds and how much? Are orgasms safe?
  • How can I prevent blood clots?
  • Is it safe to perform gentle stretching or other types of exercise?
  • Will the restrictions be lifted if my symptoms improve?

The downside of bed rest

Many women experience joint pain and muscle aches during bed rest, and the inactivity can increase the risk of blood clots, especially in the veins in your legs. Bones and muscles may weaken, and the cardiovascular deconditioning can slow your ability to get back to your usual activities after you give birth.

Bed rest can take an emotional toll not only on you, but on the rest of the family as well. Some women feel isolated, lonely, anxious, guilty or depressed. Child care and finances can be sources of stress if you’re unable to work or care for your household in the way you are accustomed. Studies show that these undesirable side effects are the most challenging for women on the strictest form of bed rest.

Successfully navigating bed rest

Help yourself sail through this part of your pregnancy as gracefully and comfortably as possible by retaining as much control as you can over how you spend your time. Here are some tips from other women who’ve experienced prolonged periods of bed rest during pregnancy:

Schedule your day using a to-do list that you can check off as you go. This helps break up the day, prevents boredom and gives you a feeling of accomplishment.

Stock up with everything you need close by your bed or couch. Keep a cooler within easy reach filled with water and healthy snacks, have your phone and electronic devices nearby, and assemble other items like tissues, remote controls, reading and writing materials, extra pillows and warm blankets.

Get organized. Tackle all of those projects you’ve been putting off: overdue correspondence, scrapbooking, photo albums, recipe updating, bill paying. Plan weekly menus, balance the checkbook, overhaul your budget and get a head start on your tax preparation.

Learn something new. Dive into an online foreign language course. Take one of the thousands of free online courses from top universities and organizations. Surf YouTube for free tutorials on anything you’re interested in.

Start a journal or a blog to document your thoughts and feelings as you move through this special time. One day you can look back with your child and share the story of their development.

Join an online pregnancy community where you can share laughs, tears and survival tips with other moms-to-be. Surf around for support groups, bulletin boards and chat rooms.

Ask for help. When friends and family ask: “Is there anything I can do for you?” — be prepared to respond gratefully with a list of specific tasks. Whether it’s running an errand, running the vacuum, picking up your other kids, or just sharing a cup of tea with you – let the people who care about you help you during this time.

Stay close to your partner. If sex is prohibited, look for other ways to maintain intimacy. Share your daily thoughts and feelings. Vent if you need to. If the isolation or frustration of bed rest is too much for you, tell your obstetrician you’d like additional emotional support.

Move if you can. If your doctor has okayed gentle stretching, it’s important to move your legs to prevent blood clots and retain muscle strength and flexibility. You can perform simple moves that don’t employ your abdominal muscles such as:

  • Changing your position from side to side to stimulate your muscles and relieve pressure
  • Pressing your hands and feet against the bed
  • Tensing or tightening your arm and leg muscles
  • Turning your arms and feet in circles
  • Squeezing stress balls

Would you like to learn more about how you can help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy? The obstetricians/gynecologists, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives at Revere Health OB/GYN are skilled in providing expectant mothers with quality care through their high-risk pregnancies. We’re passionate about helping you make healthy lifestyle choices to support a happy and healthy pregnancy with minimal pain and discomfort. Contact us today so we can help.


The obstetricians/gynecologists, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives including; puberty, child-bearing years, menopause, and beyond.


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The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.