What can I expect while I'm on bedrest?
Although it may be questionable whether bedrest should ever be prescribed, there's no doubt that it can be challenging to endure when it is. Even if hanging out in bed initially sounds good to you (so you can finally catch up on your reading or watch movies all day), the realities of being on bedrest will soon hit home.
When you're on bedrest, you give up much more than your normal schedule: You need to come up with new ways to connect with family members, take care of children and household chores, and stay on top of your job if you work outside the home. You also have to consider how bedrest could affect your marriage or partnership, your relationship with your children, your finances, your emotional health, and your vision of yourself during this time.
What's more, bedrest has physical costs, sapping much of your strength and endurance. And if you've spent more than a few days in bed, getting back up to speed after the baby arrives can be slow and taxing.
If you're facing bedrest, try to prepare yourself emotionally. Your feelings might swing from denial and shock to depression and panic. You might worry that your baby will be born too early or that something will go wrong, especially because you have a high-risk pregnancy. You may even find yourself thinking back to the early stages of your pregnancy and wondering what you did to end up on bedrest.
Just remember that medical experts don't fully understand what causes many pregnancy complications. And even if they did, bedrest wouldn't prevent them all. Know that it's normal to have these thoughts and feelings, but don't blame yourself.
Instead, keep in mind your ultimate goal – a healthy, full-term baby – to help you cope with the worry, anger, frustration, and boredom that often go along with being on bedrest.
How can I prepare for being on bedrest?
First find out exactly which activities are allowed and which are not, so you can plan accordingly. Your provider may recommend that you stay home and rest in bed, but give you the go-ahead to get up and make lunch or grab a snack. Alternatively, your provider may want you to cut back on work and other activities, avoid heavy lifting and prolonged standing, and rest in bed for just a few hours each day.
Occasionally, a provider may advise you to spend most of the day in bed, perhaps getting up only to use the bathroom. In any case, you'll probably have a lot less control than you'd like over what happens in the days and weeks ahead, but a little preparation will make these changes easier to manage.
- If you have young children, make childcare arrangements.
- Think about what you need each day and who can help you get set up in the morning or come by during the day. For example, if your activity is severely restricted, ask your partner or a friend to pack you a bedside cooler with a lunch, snacks, and beverages. Try to anticipate other items you might need, like a notebook and pencil, your cellphone and charger, and the television remote, for example.
- Put together a list of friends you can call to help out. Remember that most people are probably eager to help.
- Ask friends to bring over a casserole or another dinner that's easy to reheat. If you don't have someone you can count on to do the dishes, stock up on paper plates and cups to make cleaning up easier.
- Have a good supply of books and magazines on hand. Now may be your last chance in a long time to read for pleasure.
- Keep your laptop or tablet nearby to watch movies, keep in touch through email or on social media, shop for baby items, and read up on pregnancy and parenthood.
- Join an online support group where you can share your bedrest experience. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, KeepEmCookin.com, and BabyCenter's own Bedrest mommies community are good options to check out.
- Depending upon your personal situation, you may need to make special work or financial arrangements. Some women on bedrest are able to telecommute, while others use accrued time off or go on short-term disability. Others may need to take unpaid leave or maternity leave.
How can I care for my children while on bedrest?
This is a major challenge for many families. Here are a few tips from Judith Maloni, a nursing professor and bedrest researcher at Case Western Reserve University.
- Try to find a long-term childcare arrangement. It's less stressful than trying to find childcare as the need arises, and it will mean more stability for your child. You can always cancel if you don't end up needing care for very long.
- Avoid telling a young child, "Mommy is sick." Instead, say something like, "I have to stay in bed so the baby can be healthy when it's born."
- Set aside some time each day to spend with your child. Watch a show or take a nap together, sing, draw pictures, or have a picnic in bed – whatever the two of you enjoy. Make sure your child gets a chance to run around a bit before spending time with you, so she won't be restless.
How can I stay comfortable while on bedrest?
Here are a few tips to keep your body functioning well and avoid too much discomfort.
- Ask your provider if it's okay to get out of bed to exercise a bit, either standing in place or moving around the room. Doing some simple stretching and isometric exercises with your arms and legs is good for your circulation and your muscles – and your mood.
- Prevent constipation. Lying in bed for long periods of time can slow down your digestion. Drink plenty of water and include lots of fiber in your diet.
- Nap, but not too much. Go ahead and sleep, preferably at a regular, scheduled time. If you snooze too late in the day, you may have a hard time sleeping well during the night. Try to stick to normal daytime and nighttime routines to avoid messing up your natural sleep-wake cycle.
- If you get indigestion or reflux while on bedrest, raise the head of your mattress or put a wedge or foam block under your pillow to help you keep your head higher than your stomach.
Where can I turn for more support?
Contact Sidelines National Support Network.
Note: This article was reviewed by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Judith Maloni, a nursing professor and bedrest researcher at Case Western Reserve University.
Use the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s Find an MFM Specialist tool to locate a high-risk pregnancy doctor near you.
Visit the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's website for more information.