Bed Rest: What, why, and how?

Although the term “bed rest” implies just what it says, not every woman who is prescribed bed rest is banished to her bed for the rest of her pregnancy.  Bed rest is common, so don’t be alarmed.  Some women just need to take it easy for a few days to stabilize a potential complication, others need to be hospitalized for many months.  Some women know it is coming because of medical history, whereas others are surprised during a routine checkup.

“Find out why you are being given bed rest and what your doctor thinks it will accomplish,” suggests Julie Webber-Davlin, PhD, LCCE, FACCE, a Lamaze childbirth educator in Arvada, Colorado (via Lamaze Magazine). “Understanding why will help you deal with it better.” Ask your health-care provider for a clean explanation and advice, including exactly what you can and can’t do while on bed rest. Even if bed rest limits your activities, don’t lose sight of any goals you had for your pregnancy. For example, if you can’t attend a childbirth class, some childbirth educators will do in-home teaching.

Below, American Pregnancy explains the reasons for bed rest, how to deal with discomfort and monotony, and why it’s important to follow doctor’s orders!

What are the reasons for bed rest?

There can be any number of reasons for bed rest, but in all cases it’s to allow you to continue with a healthy pregnancy. Here is a list of complications that may lead to bed rest:

How will bed rest help?

In most cases, bed rest gives your body a chance to normalize. Working, certain activities, lifting, or exercise may worsen or provoke certain situations, so bed rest may be prescribed to reduce vaginal bleeding or decrease the chance of premature labor. Bed rest may also be necessary (often on your side) to help increase blood flow to the placenta.

What is the best position for bed rest?

The best position for bed rest will depend on your situation and what complication your health care provider is trying to address or prevent. In most cases, you’ll be instructed to sleep or rest on your side, usually with your knees or hips bent, and maybe a pillow between your knees. You may be asked to lie on your back while being propped up with pillows or to lie on your back with your hips or legs elevated higher than your shoulders.

How can I deal with bed rest discomforts?

Bed rest will tend to cause your muscles to lose tone and make some of your joints ache. Lying down for long periods of time can also reduce your blood circulation. Changing from side to side will help stimulate your muscles and relieve pressure. Exercise is important for your blood circulation, but make sure that you visit with your health care provider before you begin any exercises. Below are common exercises that may be used:

  • Squeezing stress balls
  • Pressing your hands and feet against the bed
  • Turning your arms and feet in circles
  • Tensing or tightening your arm and leg muscles

Avoid using your abdominal muscles when you are stretching or exercising. Again, consult with your health care provider about the best ways for you to get exercise in your situation.

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” during bed rest:

The “do’s” and “don’ts” during bed rest will vary from woman to woman, depending on your situation and the reasons that bed rest is prescribed by your health care provider. It is important to get a clear understanding of what is allowed during your bed rest period. In most cases, bed rest will require that you avoid lifting, exercise, or any strenuous activity. If your bed rest occurs for a long period of time, it is important to discuss exercises or activities that you are allowed to do to keep your blood circulating. Here is a list of activities to discuss with your health care provider:

  • Cooking
  • Light chores
  • Walking
  • Bath or shower
  • Driving
  • Exercise
  • Sexual intercourse

How can I make the best of bed rest?

Bed rest may sound relaxing, but it is usually challenging for most women, especially for long periods. There are a number of things you can do to make your bed rest a more positive experience:

Establish a routine: Bed rest may lead you to feel that things are out of your control. Establishing a routine helps you maintain control and feel better about your situation.  Get dressed in comfortable clothes (or at least a cute top) every morning, and have a schedule for the day.

Spring cleaning: Ok, yes you are stuck in bed, but this is an excellent opportunity to organize photo albums, make changes to address books, update recipes, or work on whatever other projects need attention.

Connect with friends: After the baby arrives you will be busy taking care of things, and visiting with friends may be difficult. Use this time to make phone calls, send emails, and invite friends to visit.

Baby preparations: Bed rest provides you with an opportunity to get organized and plan for things related to the baby. You can begin thinking about baby names, baby registry, a new will, guardianship, insurance, baby announcements, thank you notes and financial matters. You may also use this time to shop online or on the phone for the nursery or other items you will need to care for the baby.

Medical preparations: Bed rest will also give you time to research, learn, and plan to deal with a complication, such as the delivery of a premature baby. You can get online or read books to discover how you can be prepared for handling an early delivery or other complications.

Allow friends and family to help: Your family and friends care about you and are interested in helping you out. They know you would do the same for them, so don’t be afraid to ask for help with meals, household chores, or errands. You may even find that people call to ask what they can do to help. Make it easier on yourself by having a “to do” list with you, so you can actually take them up on their offer!

Become a parenting expert: Bed rest provides you with an excellent opportunity to search the internet, read books, and go through baby and parenting magazines to gain information to help you become a parenting expert. You can learn more about breastfeeding, child development, immunizations, and other things related to you, your baby, and parenting.

Love those around you: Bed rest will require those around you to invest more in the chores, tasks and activities that you may normally have handled. Recognizing your situation, they hopefully will be doing things with a positive attitude already. But you can always take this time to do something for them to show your appreciation such as make a card, write a letter, or order a special gift.

Get organized: Being confined to the bed does not mean that you cannot be productive, whether it is accomplishing things for your family, your home, or just doing something for yourself. Having things at your fingertips will make things easier. Here is a checklist of items you may want near the bed or couch:

  • Telephone, directory and address book
  • Pens, pencils and paper
  • Brush, comb, and mirror
  • Cosmetics, nail files, etc.
  • Books, magazines, or newspapers
  • Remote controls to TV and VCR
  • Laptop computer
  • Drinks and snacks

Get Top Tips from Moms in the Trenches to find ways of making the most of your time, and dealing with bed-rest blues.

Image from Pregnancy Today

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