Bed Rest While Pregnant: Reasons, Types & Benefits

Bed Rest During Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sanjana Sainani (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pregnancy is a difficult journey. It needs altering almost everything in your life like your diet,  your lifestyle, activities, preferences, etc. in several ways. Your visits to the gynaecologist will multiply; you might suffer from morning sickness, weight gain, and so on. At times, you would also need to be on bed rest. Are you wondering what it means? This article will help you understand what bed rest is, when it is required, its advantages, and disadvantages.

What is Bed Rest During Pregnancy?

Bed rest during pregnancy can mean several things, from staying in bed a few hours every day to checking yourself into a hospital. Bed rest is meant to restrict your activities to keep your energy reserves high and avoid any risks or complications associated with your pregnancy, such as premature birth or stillbirth. Bed rest can last anywhere from a couple of days to several months. Until a few years ago, strict 24/7 bed rest was recommended by most doctors, but now it is only suggested for medically critical cases. This is because prescribing bed rest has not helped improve several complicated pregnancies. However, there are still reasons for your doctor to prescribe bed rest during your pregnancy. Let’s find out when and why bed rest is essential during pregnancy.

Why Is Bed Rest Essential During Pregnancy?

The need and the importance of bed rest will always vary depending on the type of pregnancy you have and your existing medical condition. 70% of pregnant women are advised bed rest at one point or the other during their pregnancy. It is never recommended all through the pregnancy term; however, depending on your condition, your doctor may suggest if you need complete or partial bed rest.

1. Placenta Previa

In this condition, the placenta is located lower than usual. It blocks the cervix, which is the exit for the foetus. This can sometimes lead to bleeding. Bed rest can help avoid excess pressure on the cervix and placenta and avoid bleeding.

2. Cervical Insufficiency

Cervical insufficiency means that the cervical muscles are not strong enough to keep the growing foetus in place within the uterus, increasing the risks of a third-trimester miscarriage. Bed rest is strongly recommended to avoid any undue pressure on the cervix.

3. Preeclampsia

One of the most common pregnancy-related conditions, preeclampsia occurs in more than ten percent of pregnant women. Symptoms include increased blood pressure, urine protein, ad swelling in the face and the feet. Extreme cases of preeclampsia could risk both you and your baby’s life, therefore, requiring you to stay in a hospital to be monitored constantly.

4. Overly Active Lifestyle

If you lead a very active lifestyle and don’t pay much heed to your nutritional requirements, you might be asked to take bed rest. Resting and consuming balanced meals will promote the healthy development of the foetus.

5. Oligohydramnios

Oligohydramnios is the condition in which the amniotic fluid volume is lower than required to sustain your unborn child. Therefore clinically-regulated bed rest is suggested so that the doctor can monitor the foetal health.

6. Multiple Pregnancies

If you are going to give birth to multiple babies, bed rest becomes absolutely essential. This is because multiple pregnancies are more prone to risks and complications, and the safest bet is to take bed rest until your baby is born.

Each of these conditions doesn’t necessarily need complete bed rest; some need a few extra hours every day, while some a few days before the delivery. The kind of bed rest is recommended to you depends on your health at that time and your medical condition. Read on to know more.

Will You Have to Stay in Bed All the Time?

The answer to this question depends entirely on your doctor. In some cases, your doctor might ask you to avoid certain activities such as intense exercises, moving large objects or performing difficult chores. At times, you might be confined to your bed and forbidden from moving. Exceptions can be made for bathroom visits and regular medical checkups.

Bed rest has different levels, which are defined on the level of activity you can or cannot do. Let’s find that out too.

Levels and Types of Pregnancy Bed Rest

Earlier, doctors would categorise bed rest in four major categories namely scheduled resting, modified bed rest, strict bed rest and hospital bed rest. However, with changing times, the categorisation has been further simplified. There are two main types of bed rest during pregnancy nowadays.These are:

1. Minimised Activity at Home/work

Many doctors will ask you to spend less time at work when you are in your last few weeks of pregnancy. It is important to rest often and avoid any activity that requires unnecessary exertion such as cardio, walking, or standing. However, you might still be allowed to take short walks on some occasions, and perform simple chores.

2. Minimised Activity at the Hospital

In cases the pregnancy has a lot of complications, the doctor will recommend an extended stay at the hospital so the patient can remain under constant observation. Luckily, given the inactive nature of hospital bed rest during pregnancy, your doctor will make sure you stay fit by suggesting some simple exercises or a physical therapy course.

Here is a chart of the different levels of bed rest that shows how much sleep you should get every day, additional bed rest and the level of activity permitted. So, you know when and why your medical practitioner could prescribe you bed rest. Let’s take a look at the benefits/advantages of bed rest.

Discomforts of Bed Rest and How to Deal With Them

As mentioned earlier, lounging around on your bed all day sounds amazing! However, the lack of movement is soon going to cause joint pains, muscle loss, reduced flexibility and worsened blood circulation. In addition to changing from side to side and eating balanced meals, here are some exercises you can do to help soothe these discomforts.

  • Rotating your arms and legs in slow circular motions helps maintain your mobility and ease any muscular or joint aches.
  • Squeezing stress balls help prevent joint pains in the wrist and fingers.
  • Placing your hands and feet on the mattress and exerting a gentle pressure improves flexibility.
  • Tightening and relaxing the muscles in your limbs improves blood circulation.

You might now wonder what is the best way to rest on the bed, as lying in one position for long hours would be restricting and uncomfortable. Although moving from one side to another is recommended, there are certain things you medical practitioner will recommend depending on your health condition. Read on to know more

Bed Rest – Best Position for Resting

As mentioned earlier, the best position to rest in will entirely be based on the extent of pregnancy, the history of your medical condition and any complications you might be facing. Women who have to be on bed rest for long stretches of time are asked to sleep on their sides, with your knees bent, to prevent the uterus from putting pressure on the large veins of the body. Sleeping on your left side improves blood flow to the baby, so it is preferable to sleep on left side

Best Position for Resting on a Bed

Risks of Taking Bed Rest

Lying down for days or weeks will definitely have its own risks. Some of the complications of bed rest include:

1. Blood Clots

Lack of movement can cause blood clots in pregnant women, especially in the legs. This is known as Deep Vein Thrombosis.

2. Depression and Anxiety

Staying in bed all day might make you feel like you are a burden, which might initiate symptoms of depression or anxiety.

3. Family Stress

It could lead to added stress to your family as you can hardly move and may need someone to be with you always.

4. Financial Worries (When You Have Stopped Your Job)

Many companies do not offer extended pregnancy leave, and you would have to take additional leaves at the cost of your salary or leave the job.

5. Weakened Bones and Muscles

Lack of exercise can cause bones to demineralise and muscles to atrophy, which can result in serious bone and muscle-related complications.

In most cases, bed rest is recommended in the best interest of the patient. If you are recommended bed rest, you may want to ask some questions to reduce the discomfort and manage your time to take as much rest as possible.

Things to Discuss With the Healthcare Provider

While exhausting activities are out of the question, here are a few things you might be able to do. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about what you are and are not allowed to do during bed rest.

  • Mild exercise
  • Walking
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Having sex
  • Driving or riding
  • Bathing
  • Working from home

These activities are important for you to stay healthy through your pregnancy. Complete bed rest could affect your health and give rise to physical issues. In the next section, we shall talk a little about the ways you can stay healthy while you are on bed rest.

How to Stay Healthy During Bed Rest

Prolonged inactivity is not only boring but also unhealthy. Here are some things you can do while on bed rest to stay healthy, both physically and emotionally:

1. Physical Health

Bed rest and physical health

  • Stretch your arms, legs, neck, back, and basically anything you are able to, so they retain their strength.
  • Maintain a strict pregnancy diet, eat smaller meals frequently and avoid foods that could cause indigestion.
  • Lie down as comfortably as you can, and change positions to ameliorate any developing muscle numbness or skin irritation.

2. Emotional Health

Bed rest and emotional health

  • Entertain yourself with television, books or surf the internet. Don’t let yourself get bored.
  • Visit friends if possible, or have them drop by. You may not be able to catch up with them as often as you’d want once the baby is born.
  • Don’t stress about your situation. Many women have gone through the same thing and have had happy and successful pregnancies.

Bed rest doesn’t only affect the pregnant women; it is bound to affect the family too. Let’s find out how it does affect the family members, what you could do about it and ways to make the best out of the situation.

How Does Bed Rest Affect Your Family?

If you are spending most of your time in bed, your family will have to learn how to adjust to their new roles. Your partner might now be in charge of all the daily household activities such as washing, cleaning, shopping for groceries, and taking care of your children if you have any. While your partner takes care of your previous roles around the house, you should also ensure that they don’t get bogged down by taking care of you. If you have children, especially small ones, you might have to hold off on playing rough; instead, keep them entertained by reading to them or watching television with them. If possible, get a family member or close friend to keep them occupied. If your kids go to school, you can spend some time helping them with their homework, or catch up with them after their school hours. The point is to rest well and keep yourself in a happy state of mind. And, there are a lot of opportunities to do just that.

How to Make Best Use of Bed Rest

Here are some more things you can do to make the most of your time:

  • Make sure you have all the necessary supplies like a crib, diapers, milk bottles, maternity clothes, breast pumps, and so on.
  • Do some online research about your stage of pregnancy and any potential complications.
  • Inform yourself about vaccinations, breastfeeding, baby development, and other parenting techniques.
  • Eat enough nutritious food like fruits, veggies and whole-grain cereals.
  • Read about important prenatal and postnatal supplements.
  • Don’t forget to do gentle exercises to keep your limbs active and healthy.
  • Keep a strict routine to re-establish a sense of control.
  • Organise your photographs, do your taxes, and other small projects pending at home.
  • Have a positive attitude to those helping you around the house with chores and jobs.

Checklist of Any Item You May Need

Keep a checklist of items you might require within arms’ reach so that you don’t have to trouble your family frequently or don’t have to leave the bed to get something.

  • Water and snacks (fruits, veggies, nuts, etc.)
  • Mobile phone and laptop to keep in touch with people.
  • Stationery like pens and paper.
  • Grooming items like combs, brushes, nail cutters, and mirrors.
  • Books, magazines and newspapers to keep yourself entertained.

The best advice you can get during your pregnancy is to keep calm, however hard it might seem. Never forget that you are taking all these extra precautions and steps for you and your baby’s safety, even though it might not be enjoyable for you. The more you relax and take it slow, the higher your chance of having a healthy baby.

References and Resources:

Also Read: 

How to Deal with Restless Leg Syndrome during Pregnancy
Lower Back Pain during Pregnancy
Climbing Stairs during Pregnancy

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