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Introduction to Bedrest

At some point in your pregnancy, your provider may prescribe bedrest. Bedrest can be "partial", meaning you are to spend some part of each day laying down and resting, or "complete", meaning you need to be laying down at all times. Complete bedrest can even mean hospitalization.

Pregnancy bedrest is usually prescribed when your provider believes it will be of benefit to your health or the health of your baby. Preterm labor, incompetent cervix, hypertension, placenta previa, and preeclampsia are some of the high risk pregnancy conditions that may be treated with some type of bedrest prescription.

Why is Bedrest Important?
If your doctor feels that you need bedrest, it is very important that you follow your bedrest instructions. Bedrest is a tool that can be just as important as medication in treating certain pregnancy conditions. Laying down removes weight and pressure from your cervix. This can be effective in treating conditions such as incompetent cervix and preterm labor.

Bedrest can sometimes result in improved blood pressure and decreased swelling. Laying down, particularly an your left side, improves blood circulation to your heart, uterus and baby. If your baby isn't growing as expected, your doctor may recommend bedrest to help maximize the blood flow to your uterus.

How to Manage Bedrest
A bedrest prescription usually means a major upheaval in your life. You may have to take a leave of absence from work. If you already are a parent, you may need to find help with childcare. Shopping, food preparation, laundry and house cleaning may need to be done by someone else. It is very important that you discuss the specific limitations of your activities with your prenatal care provider. Sometimes bedrest is prescribed for the remainder of your pregnancy, sometimes it is only for a few days or weeks.

Asking for help is the first step in surviving bedrest. Friends, family and coworkers are usually more than happy to be of assistance during this challenging time. It is helpful to remember that bedrest won't last forever.

It may be possible for you to do some gentle exercises to maintain strength and muscle tone while confined to bed or your couch. Each pregnancy is different, however, and so be specifically advised by your obstetrician during any high risk pregnancy.

Set up your home environment so that you have books, writing materials, telephone and snacks within easy reach. This is a good time to catch up on letters, reading or putting your photos into albums.

Staying Healthy on Bedrest
  • Drink 8-10 cups, or more, of fluids every day. Staying well hydrated helps reduce risk of preterm labor and can keep you from becoming constipated. You should be urinating frequently and your urine should be pale or colorless if you are well hydrated.

  • Eat 6-8 small meals per day. Eating smaller amounts more often can help you feel better when you are restricted to bedrest. When your activity is limited your stomach may not empty as well and heartburn symptoms can be more severe if you eat too much at one time.

  • Eat foods rich in fiber. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils and bran cereals can help prevent constipation.

  • Take any prescribed medication or vitamin/mineral supplements.

  • Keep all your prenatal care appointments. If bedrest has been prescribed, you have a higher risk pregnancy. This means it is even more important that you don't miss any of your scheduled checkups or appointments for fetal monitoring or testing.

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