Bed Rest

Bed rest is a common practice during pregnancy to alleviate certain pregnancy complications. Some women know it is coming because of medical history whereas others are surprised during a routine checkup. Bed rest is common so don't be alarmed.

Bed rest will differ from woman to woman and may range from simple periodic resting at home to full bed rest and monitoring in a hospital. Some women will discover that their healthcare provider places them on bed rest for a brief period to help a complication stabilize, whereas other women may be placed on bed rest through most of their pregnancy. Bed rest can be anything from confinement to bed to just taking it easy around the house.

What are the reasons for bed rest?

Your healthcare provider may prescribe bed rest for any number of reasons, but in all cases it is to increase the probability that you continue with a healthy pregnancy. Here is a list of complications that may lead to bed rest:

  • High blood pressure, such as preeclampsia, and eclampsia
  • Cervical changes, such as incompetent cervix, and cervical effacement
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Premature labor
  • Multiples
  • History of pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or premature birth
  • Poor fetal development
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Placenta complications, such as placental abruption, placenta previa, and placenta accreta

How will bed rest help?

In most cases, bed rest is used to help the body have the best chance to normalize. Bed rest will be used with women who have conditions related to high blood pressure in order to decrease stress and lower blood pressure. Work, activity, lifting, or exercise may worsen or provoke certain situations, so bed rest may be prescribed to reduce vaginal bleeding or decrease the chance of premature labor. Bed rest may also be necessary (often on your side) to help increase blood flow to the placenta.

What is the best position for bed rest?

The best position for bed rest will depend on your situation and what complication your healthcare provider is trying to address or prevent. In most cases, your healthcare provider will request that you sleep or rest on your side, usually with your knees or hips bent, and maybe a pillow between your knees. You may be asked to lie on your back while being propped up with pillows or lying on your back with your hips or legs elevated higher than your shoulders.

How can I deal with bed rest discomforts?

Bed rest will tend to cause your muscles to loose tone and make some of your joints ache. Lying down for long periods of time can also reduce your blood circulation. Changing from side to side will help stimulate your muscles and relieve pressure. Exercise is important for you blood circulation, but make sure that you visit with your healthcare provider before you begin any exercises. Below are common exercises that may be used:

  • Squeezing stress balls
  • Pressing your hands and feet against the bed
  • Turning your arms and feet in circles
  • Tensing or tightening your arm and leg muscles

Avoid using your abdomen muscles when you are stretching or exercising. Again, consult with your healthcare provider on the best ways for you to get exercise in your situation.

"Do's" and "Don'ts" during bed rest

The "do's" and "don'ts" during bed rest will vary from woman to woman depending on your situation and the reasons that bed rest is prescribed by your healthcare provider. It is important to get a clear understanding of what is allowed during your bed rest period. In most cases, bed rest will require that you avoid lifting, exercise, or any strenuous activity. Here is a list of activities that you may use as an initial checklist for discussing with your healthcare provider on what is ok to do or not:

  • Cooking
  • Light chores
  • Walking
  • Bathing or shower
  • Driving
  • Walking
  • Exercise
  • Sexual intercourse

If your bed rest occurs for a long period of time, it is important to discuss exercise or activities that you are allowed to do to keep your blood circulation going.


Are there statistics on the 'success' rate of bed rest? How far do bed rest mums make it generally?