Bed rest is limiting physical activity during your pregnancy. It can last a few weeks or even months. It may be at home or in the hospital.
Your doctor may put you on partial bed rest or full bed rest. Partial bed rest usually means it's usually okay to sit, stand, or walk around for short periods of time. It is sometimes called modified bed rest. Full bed rest usually means you need to lie down most of the day except when you go to the bathroom or take a bath or shower. But every woman and every pregnancy is different. So the amount of activity you can do will depend on your doctor's recommendations.
It's normal to feel many emotions when you find out that you need to be on bed rest. You may feel frustrated, sad, or stressed. Some women even feel relieved. It may help to focus on how you are helping to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. There are also many things you can do to make your time on bed rest easier.
Your doctor may put you on bed rest if you have preeclampsia or are pregnant with multiple babies. Or it may be recommended if you have a problem with the placenta or the cervix.
Your doctor may also prescribe bed rest if you have serious health problems during your pregnancy.
Sometimes bed rest is prescribed if there is a high risk of having your baby early. This is called preterm birth.
It is important to know that full bed rest is not often recommended by many doctors. This is because bed rest has not been shown to help prevent certain problems, such as preventing preterm birth.1
Be sure to talk with your doctor about the reasons for your bed rest. The more you understand about the pros and cons, the easier it may be to follow your doctor's advice.
What you can do depends on whether you are on partial or full bed rest. Talk with your doctor about what kinds of activities are okay to do. Ask if it's okay to lift, bathe, do housework, drive, walk, take stairs, and exercise.
It is also important to discuss sex. Ask your doctor what kinds of sexual activities are okay during the rest of your pregnancy.
The biggest risk for women on bed rest is blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) in your leg or lungs. The best way to reduce your risk of these clots is to regularly flex your feet and to stretch and move your legs.
Bed rest may also make your muscles weak. Ask your doctor if there are some leg and arm exercises you can do. The stronger your body, the more energy and strength you will have for labor and to care for your new baby.
It is normal to have a hard time adjusting to life on bed rest. But if you feel depressed or sad for a few weeks, talk to your doctor. You may need treatment for depression.
Keep your body as comfortable as possible.
Stay connected and supported.
See this time as an opportunity. Do things that can be hard to find time to do.
Use this time to get ready for the arrival of your baby.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(2012). Management of preterm labor. ACOG Practice Bulletin
No. 127. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 119(6):
May 8, 2013
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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