Bed Rest During Pregnancy

Bed Rest During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a difficult journey. You will need to alter your diet, lifestyle, and activities in many ways. Your doctor visits will multiply. You might suffer from morning sickness, weight gain, and so on. However, sometimes the best thing to do during your pregnancy is nothing at all. Read on to find out what bed rest during pregnancy means, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.

Bed rest during pregnancy can mean several things, from staying in bed a few hours every day to checking yourself into a hospital. Known as activity restriction, bed rest is meant to keep your energy reserves high to 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 is only suggested in worst case scenarios. This is because prescribing bed rest has not been proven to improve a complicated pregnancy in many cases. However, there are still several reasons for your doctor to prescribe bed rest during your pregnancy.

Why is it 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 at one point or the other during their pregnancy. A 9-month bed rest is usually never recommended, however, depending on your condition your doctor may suggest if you need complete or partial bed rest. Some of the reasons for bed rest are:

1. Placenta Previa

In this condition, the placenta is located lower than usual. It blocks the cervix, which is the exit for the foetus. So take bed rest to avoid putting excess pressure on the cervix and placenta.

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 very strongly recommended to avoid any undue pressure on the cervix.

3. Preeclampsia

One of the most common pregnancy-linked conditions, it appears in more than ten percent of pregnant women. Symptoms include increased blood pressure, urine protein, facial and feet swelling. Extreme cases of preeclampsia could risk both your and your baby’s life, and requires you to stay at a hospital so you can be constantly monitored.

4. Overly Active Lifestyle

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

5. Pregnancy Bleeding

Occasionally, there might be some small amount of blood that appears during pregnancy. This might be for several reasons such as placental abruption, uterine tears or an injured cervix, any of which might lead to a miscarriage. In any case, bed rest during pregnancy’s first trimester is recommended to avoid worsening the bleeding.

6. Fluctuations in Blood Pressure

Random fluctuations in blood pressure are symptomatic of eclampsia. Eclampsia can lead to severe seizures and multiple organ failures if not monitored, so a hospital stay is mandatory.

7. Oligohydramnios

Oligohydramnios is the condition in which amniotic fluid volume is lower than required to sustain your unborn child. As there are too many risk factors involved with low fluid levels and therefore clinically-regulated bed rest is suggested so the doctor can keep an eye on you.

8. 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 just stay on a bed until your baby is born.

Will You Have to Stay in Bed All the Time?

The answer to this question depends entirely on your doctor. In some situations, your doctor might ask you to avoid certain activities such as intense exercises, moving large objects or performing difficult chores. In others, you might be confined to your bed and forbidden from lifting even a finger except to go to the bathroom or to the doctor.

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 where 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. How Much Sleep Per Day

Level Daily sleep requirement Daily bed rest requirement Permission to leave the house Level of activity allowed Need for assistance Permission to self-prepare meals
1 Min. 6 hrs As you like Yes Light exercises If you want Yes
2 8-10 hrs At least 2 hrs Yes, but only for short distances Simple chores For tough chores Yes
3 8-10 hrs Most of the day No, except to visit doctor No housework For all chores Small meals only
4 8-10+ hrs All day long No, except to visit doctor Can only move to and from bathroom Yes, for everything No, let someone else cook
5 8-10+ hrs Hospital bed rest No No movement allowed Yes, for everything No, let someone else cook

What are the Benefits of Bed Rest for You & Your Baby

Aside from practising bed rest during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage, it has several benefits that safeguard your unborn baby. These include:

  • Bed rest keeps your circulatory system working efficiently, ensuring your baby gets all the nutrients it needs.
  • Studies have shown that bed rest reduces the concentration of stress hormones called catecholamines, which could induce early labour when produced in excess.
  • Your cervix, placenta and uterus remain free from excess pressure during bed rest.
  • Bed rest is known to improve blood flow throughout the body, preventing fluids from accumulating and leading to oedemas.

Discomforts of Bed Rest and How to Deal with Them

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.

Best Position for Resting on a Bed

This will entirely be based on the extent of pregnancy, disease history 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 side to prevent the uterus from putting pressure on the large veins of the body.

Best Position for Resting on a Bed

In this position, keep your knees bent like a foetus. You might also be told to lie flat on your back with your hips raised above the chest.


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 being a burden, which might initiate symptoms of depression or anxiety.

3. Family Stress

There could be stress in your family as your roles, such as working, home care or child care, are taken care of by other members.

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

Many companies do not offer extended pregnancy leave, and even then you are allowed to avail it after birth. This might mean a loss of salary or even your job.

5. Low Birth-Weight of Your Baby

Bed rest implies a reduction in your cardiovascular health, which is associated with low birth weight and foetal growth problems.

6. Slower Recovery After Delivery

As there is minimal movement during bed rest, it will take you longer to get back on your feet after you give birth.

7. Weakened Bones and Muscles

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

Do’s and Don’ts 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
  • Having sex
  • Driving or riding
  • Washing yourself

How to Stay Healthy During Bed Rest?

Prolonged inactivity is not only boring but also unhealthy. Here are some things to 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 more frequently and avoid foods that could cause indigestion.
  • Lie down as comfortably as you can, and changing position 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.

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 entertain them.

How to Make Best Use of Bed Rest

Seeing as you might be spending a while on the bed, here are some 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.
  • Drinking enough water keeps you free from constipation and inflammation.

Checklist of Any Item You May Need

Keep a checklist of items you might require within arms’ reach:

  • Water and snacks like fruits, veggies and nuts.
  • 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 your and your baby’s safety, even though it might not be enjoyable to you. The more you relax and take it slow, the higher your chance of having a healthy baby.

Also Read: 

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