Approximately 700,000 women per year spend a portion of time on bedrest during their pregnancy. The bedrest stint can range from a week to months, depending on the expectant mother’s health, as well as the unborn baby’s health. When an OB-GYN prescribes pregnancy bedrest, the goal is to try and keep the mother and baby safe, hopefully delaying delivery until the baby has developed enough to survive outside of the uterus.
A woman can be prescribed bedrest for various reasons. The expectant mother may have health issues specific to her such as diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorder, previous history of miscarriage(s) and/or preterm birth(s). Bedrest can also be prescribed when the baby is having difficulties such as poor growth and/or a genetic disorder. And most often, bedrest is prescribed for conditions specific to pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia (high-blood pressure), preterm labor (contractions and cervical changes prior to 37 weeks gestation), premature rupture of membranes (bag of water surrounding baby breaks prior to 37 weeks gestation), placenta previa (the placenta is lying too close to the cervix or covering the cervix), and a multiple gestation pregnancy (more than one baby).
Depending on the type of health condition(s) the mother and baby are experiencing will determine the type of bedrest she will be prescribed. The bedrest prescription can range from partial to complete. A partial or modified bedrest prescription may require the expectant mother to spend part of each day laying down and resting. A strict bedrest prescription might require the expectant mother to stay in bed except for standing while showering, going to the bathroom, and sitting for meals. There may even be limitations on the number of trips to the bathroom in a 24 hour time frame thus requiring use of a bedpan. When complete or hospital bedrest is prescribed, the expectant mother will most likely be confined to the hospital where she can be monitored by health care professionals around the clock. She will most likely use a bedpan and have hygiene services provided by hospital personnel unless a family member performs the task.
Pregnancy bedrest brings many changes into the lives of the expectant mother and family. From the outside looking in, bedrest may not seem like such a big deal to the onlooker. Some may even view it as a “vacation from life.” However, bedrest is anything but a vacation. Warming the bed day after day, week after week, sometimes month after month, peering at the same four walls almost twenty four hours a day can make the bedrest journey seem like a mountain that is insurmountable.
Women experiencing pregnancy bedrest not only endure physical struggles caused by bedrest such as aching arms, neck, legs, and back; decrease in muscle strength; cardiovascular de-conditioning; fatigue; and other physical difficulties, but they face many emotional challenges as well. The expectant mother struggles with fear about her baby’s health and survival, as well as her own; battles feelings of grief from different losses she will experience while on bedrest; struggles with feelings of isolation from being cut-off from the outside world,; possible anger from not understanding why she and her family have to endure this enormous task; and many other emotions. Bedrest life can feel very overwhelming!
When faced with such a life crisis, the expectant mother has to find her route on the new journey set before her. Her normal, daily routine and ways of functioning will not work. She will have to develop a new routine for her current life situation, and implement healthy coping strategies to aid in managing her bedrest days and nights. The following list of suggestions for managing pregnancy bedrest are ones I, as well as many other expectant mothers, implemented into our days and nights to help us through this immeasurable journey of love:
Excerpt from Pregnancy Bedrest: A Journey of Love, by Wanda Hale
Remind yourself daily and maybe hourly, if needed, why you are taking on the task of pregnancy bedrest: you love your unborn baby.
Accept your current life situation and know it will someday end, and your main priority at this stage in the game is the health and wellness of yourself and baby.
Set-up your resting place so it is conducive for a person on bedrest. Try and locate all of your necessary items within arms reach, such as the telephone, remote controls, water, snacks, medications, telephone book, paper, pen, computer, etc.
Create a daily routine for yourself with meals, rest, and entertainment. This will help the days pass faster, as well as aiding in relaxation and rest. Keep in mind the purpose of the routine is to reduce stress not increase stress – try and be flexible.
Educate yourself about your pregnancy medical condition and ask your doctor any question for which you need an answer. Knowledge is power and information can help relieve stress and anxiety.
Continue to stay in touch with friends and family to help relieve feelings of isolation and loneliness. This can be done through telephone calls, emails, letters, and people coming by to visit.
Look for the positive in your current life situation and know that you are a good mother doing all you can for your unborn baby. Reframe your negative thinking into positive thinking. Positive thinking will help you have a better outlook on your pregnancy situation and turn your bedrest obstacles into opportunities.
Assess your emotions: denial, anger, isolation, grief, fear, depression, etc. and determine if these emotions are affecting your life and that of others negatively. Reach out for support and help in managing these emotions, as well as developing healthy coping strategies.
Remind yourself daily, “Where you spend your pregnancy is not as important as how you spend it.” You can choose to feel joy about becoming a mother even if your days are spent in bed. Use this time to nurture your body, mind, and spirit and bond with the little life growing inside of you.
Practice relaxation with music: guided imagery, meditation, muscle relaxation, and deep breathing.
Nurture yourself with thoughts of affirmation: “I’m a good mother and I am doing everything possible to keep my baby safe.”
If your doctor approves, ask for a physical therapist to develop a daily bedrest exercise routine to help relieve muscle pain, stiffness, fatigue, and blood circulation concerns or issues. Do not perform any exercises without prior approval from your doctor.
Allow yourself to grieve your losses, which will help you move forward and believe in a future – the past is the past, try and leave it there.
Ask for help and allow others to help you. This isn’t the time to be a “do it all yourself person.”
If you are struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression talk with your doctor, or other means of support. Ask for help in managing these feelings, which will bring relief and hope into your current life situation.
While pregnancy bedrest is no walk in the park, it may be a journey that has to be taken in order to sustain a threatened pregnancy. Learning to view pregnancy bedrest as an opportunity for one’s baby instead of an obstacle to be overcome will help the expectant mother and family manage pregnancy bedrest with a spirit of hope instead of despair. Keep in mind, bedrest will end someday – it’s only for a short period of time in the scheme of life.
About the Author:
Wanda Hale is a two-time bedrest patient for preterm labor and a marriage and family counselor. During both of her pregnancies she spent 14 weeks on strict bedrest with many hospital stays until her children were born at 36 weeks gestation. She understands the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of bedrest for both the mother and family. Her goal is to support women and families experiencing this type of life struggle and offer hope and a sense of direction.