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Bed rest is a common practice during pregnancy to alleviate certain pregnancy complications. Some women know it is coming because of medical history, whereas others are surprised during a routine checkup. Bed rest is common, so don’t be alarmed.

Bed rest will differ from woman to woman and may range from simple periodic resting at home to full bed rest and monitoring in a hospital. Some women will discover that their health care provider places them on bed rest for a brief period to help a complication stabilize, whereas other women may be placed on bed rest through most of their pregnancy. Bed rest can be anything from confinement to bed to just taking it easy around the house.

What are the reasons for bed rest?

Your health care provider may prescribe bed rest for any number of reasons, but in all cases it is to increase the probability that you continue with a healthy pregnancy. Here is a list of complications that may lead to bed rest:

  • High blood pressure, such as preeclampsia, and eclampsia
  • Cervical changes, such as incompetent cervix, and cervical effacement
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Premature labor
  • Multiples
  • History of pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or premature birth
  • Poor fetal development
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Placenta complications, such as placental abruption, placenta previa, and placenta accreta

How will bed rest help?

In most cases, bed rest is used to help the body have the best chance to normalize. Bed rest will be used with women who have conditions related to high blood pressure in order to decrease stress and lower blood pressure. Work, activity, 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, your healthcare provider will request that you 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.

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