What is Bed Rest?

pregnant woman bed rest

While some pregnant moms may think that doctor-ordered bed rest is an excuse to get some much needed down time, the reality of bed rest is that it can be very frustrating and difficult for moms who are sequestered to their beds. When bed rest is prescribed by a doctor, it is to prevent and treat real problems, either pregnancy related or preexisting that may threaten the health of both the baby and mother. There are many ways to cope with bed rest — it may be more difficult than you think.

Why Bed Rest?

Approximately 20% of pregnant moms may be prescribed bed rest at some point in their pregnancy. Bed rest helps alleviate the day to day pressure and strain a uterus may undergo due to normal activity. It reduces cervical stretching, improves the flow of blood to the baby, thereby providing better support and nourishment. Women who are experiencing bleeding that cannot be explained, or who may have a threatened miscarriage may be prescribed bed rest early on in their pregnancy. For women who are experiencing preterm labor later on in their pregnancy, bed rest may be prescribed to stop or keep preterm labor at bay.

pregnant woman on bed reading

Other reasons for bed rest may include high blood pressure, an incompetent cervix, preeclampsia, chronic conditions such as heart disease, and the premature rupture of membranes.

Once your doctor has prescribed bed rest, be sure to get specific instructions as to the extent of the bed rest he wants you to be on. Total bed rest means that you are to stay in bed, and most likely use a bedpan to go to the bathroom in and sponge baths for bathing. Obviously, this would be the worst case scenario for bed rest. If it is a lighter bed rest, you may be able to take regular showers, walk to the living room to be with the family, go to the kitchen to get a drink. You need to be sure that you understand your doctor’s instructions very clearly — nothing is worth endangering your baby’s health.

Coping with Bed Rest

Comfort: Set up your bedroom with all the comforts you’ll need to make it through bed rest, no matter how extended. Comfy bedding, a good bedside table and lamp, television, movies/cable, books, mini fridge for drinks and snacks can all be extremely helpful in passing the days/weeks/months in bed. If it’s possible, schedule regular pampering in the form of massage, pedicures or manicures.

pregnant woman sleeping

Interaction: Bed rest can be agonizing for extroverts, and even test the mettle of introverts as well. Tell your friends and family that you’ll need interaction to help you cope with the long hours stuck inside. A laptop computer can help you stay connected through online chatting, emailing, etc. Be sure that you have a phone nearby as well — you may find yourself calling everyone you know just to hear a friendly voice. If it’s possible, move the family TV in your bedroom so you don’t miss out on important family time — you may even want to move a little table in if you have room so you can have family dinner.

Emotional Support: Be sure to reach out if you’re feeling lonely or depressed. You may just need some extra support from friends and family, or if it’s more serious, you might need medical intervention. Some moms may use bed rest as an opportunity for self reflection, and a good time for journaling.

Activity: Keep your brain active by reading, doing crossword puzzles, brain teasers, and keeping up on current events. Bed rest may be a great time to finally learn how to knit, work on scrap booking or write that novel you’ve been dreaming up in your head. In addition to your brain, your body needs some form of activity as well. There are some exercises that may be approved by your doctor, such as arm and calf lifts, so find out what is safe to do on bed rest.

Definite no-nos while on bed rest includes sexual intercourse, and obviously, non-approved forms of exercise — most definitely anything aerobic or high impact. While bed rest may seem like an endless sentence of boredom and loneliness, it will be over before you know it and you’ll have a beautiful new baby to show for your sacrifice!

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