In the past, women were frequently put on bed rest as their pregnancy advanced, particularly if there were complications, such as a danger of going into early labor and/or losing the baby. While to some women, the idea of bed rest may come as a relief, it also can bring its own set of problems.
Let’s take a closer look at bed rest during pregnancy.
Why Would My Doctor Prescribe Bed Rest?
There are many reasons why doctors still prescribe bed rest for their pregnant patients. Some of the most common reasons are:
- Vaginal bleeding or suspected problems with the placenta.
- Contractions or other signs that preterm labor is possible.
- An incompetent cervix. This is a term given to a cervix if it is weak or threatens to open up before the baby is carried to term.
- A multiple pregnancy (i.e. carrying twins, triplets, etc.)
- A less-than-average pattern of fetal growth (i.e. the baby is not growing as fast as the doctor would like)
Are There Different Kinds of Bed Rest?
Yes. Bed rest might mean different things to different doctors, so make sure you ask about what your restrictions are. In its mildest form, bed rest might simply mean slowing down, such as cutting hours at work, only doing light housework, and avoiding any heavy lifting or strenuous activity. A stricter form of bed rest might mean that you have to spend most of your time sitting or lying down and will not be allowed to do even light work.
In its strictest form, women on total bed rest must be in bed at all times and lie on their side, even while eating. They will have to take sponge baths to maintain personal hygiene, and will also have to use a bed pan for their bathroom needs since they are not allowed to get up and use the toilet. If bed rest is this strict, it will often require hospitalization so that a woman with these restrictions can still get the care she needs.
Are There Side Effects to Bed Rest?
There are side effects to bed rest, especially if it is strict. Women should be aware of these going into the rest itself. These side effects can include:
- An increased chance of blood clots. When you are in a resting position for a long period of time, this can make your circulation sluggish and blood clots easier to form. Blood clots can lead to serious complications if they become lodged in the heart, lungs or brain.
- Joint and muscle aches and pains from inactivity.
- Muscle weakness due to inactivity. This can make it harder to begin recovering from the pregnancy after the baby is born.
- Emotional problems like boredom, isolation, and anxiety.
What Makes Bed Rest During Pregnancy Easier?
If you are put on bed rest, it will be easier for you if you are able to follow the tips below:
- Know the rules – Talk to your doctor at the beginning and make sure you understand exactly what restrictions you are on. Is it okay to get up and walk around the house? To take a shower or go to the bathroom? Do you need to be in bed all the time? Knowing your parameters will help decrease your anxiety.
- Plan ahead – Be sure you have what you need within reach, including a water glass, snacks, personal care products, and different ways to entertain yourself (see below). Having a cell phone to be able to make calls and talk to people is also nice.
- Keep yourself entertained – The day can seem very long, especially if you are on total bed rest. In order to keep yourself distracted, make sure you have plenty of things around you to pass the time. Books, movies, crossword puzzles, knitting, drawing — whatever it is that makes you happy, do it! Also, if your doctor says it’s okay, see if friends or family can come over periodically for visits to decrease your feelings of isolation.
- Accept your own feelings – Even if you are keeping yourself distracted, bed rest can take an emotional toll on you. Anxiety, boredom, worry about the pregnancy, even a little depression, are common for women in this situation. Talking about your feelings — and being prepared for them in advance — can help.
- Ask for help – If you are not able to do housework, shop, or run errands, see if friends or family members can help you with some of these day-to-day tasks. It will take pressure off of both you and your partner.
Bed rest is difficult on any woman. Just remember: this, too, shall pass! While it is not an ideal situation, it will not last forever. Being prepared, having good support, and keeping yourself entertained are all great ways to make this time as easy on yourself as possible.