Bed Rest in Pregnancy: Why and How to Cope

In most pregnancies, expectant moms are encouraged to be physically active for optimal health. But some complications require inactivity instead, including signs of:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • High blood pressure (such as preeclampsia)
  • Cervical or placenta problems
  • Preterm labor (contractions and other symptoms)
  • Fetal growth problems
  • Gestational diabetes

The American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises against routinely prescribing bed rest to prevent miscarriage, low birth weight or in cases of pregnancy-related high blood pressure, saying there's no definitive evidence that bed rest can prevent these issues. Still, in rare circumstances, bed rest may be advised for women pregnant with multiples or who have a history of pregnancy loss, premature birth or still birth.

If your healthcare provider says you must rest even staying in bed due to pregnancy complications, take heart. Many women and their families have found ways to cope.

How much bed rest an expectant mom might need varies:

  • In strict bed rest, a mother-to-be must remain in bed at all times. In some cases, she is allowed to get up to go to the bathroom.
  • In limited bed rest, a mother may get up for part of the day or take meals with her family.
  • Some women are asked simply to take it easy to avoid walking, lifting or standing for long periods.

Coping With Bed Rest

If you've been placed on bed rest, ask your healthcare provider about both the benefits and potential downside, including a higher risk of blood clots and loss of bone density. Research has also noted an increase in anxiety, depression and sleep problems among pregnant women on bed rest. These are all issues that your care provider can address.

Whatever kind of rest you're prescribed, you'll need support from family, friends and neighbors. If you're a single mom, consider asking a friend or relative to stay with you for the time of your bed rest. Let people know how they can help, and why it is so important for you to limit your activity.

You can also find valuable support online. Many websites include message boards where you can communicate with other women in the same situation. You can share concerns and advice on adjusting.

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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