Bed Rest Survival Tips
Doctors prescribe bed rest to nearly 1 million American women each year. Here's why.

Doctors prescribe bed rest for pregnant women for a variety of reasons. The most common threat is premature labor – which occurs in approximately 7 percent of all pregnancies. Women at higher risk for preterm labor typically have one or more of the following complications: multiple fetuses, dilated cervix, previous preterm labor or birth, or previous miscarriages or abortions.

How Common Is Bed Rest?
Each year, an estimated 700,000 American women – roughly 18 percent of pregnant women who deliver after 20 weeks – are prescribed bed rest by their doctors for at least a week of their pregnancy.

There is no typical length of stay during bed rest. Some women are confined to complete bed rest, while others just have to “put their feet up” for a couple of hours a day. No matter what the duration, there’s no doubt that bed rest is both boring and frustrating. The following tips may help:

Don’t let day and night turn into one long blur. In the morning, open the curtains and wash and dress as you would normally. During the day, lie on top of the bed. That way, you’re less likely to nap all day and lie awake all night.

Arrange for childcare. Placing your children in childcare, hiring an au pair or asking for assistance from relatives or friends will enable you to get the rest you need and help your children feel secure during this time.

• Reach out and touch someone. Make phone calls to combat loneliness. If you feel up to it, ask someone to visit you (and perhaps throw in a load of laundry, too).

Make a list of things to do. Finish – or start – projects, such as putting photos in albums or knitting baby booties or a crib blanket. Read books or magazines. Keep a journal.

• Try gentle bed exercises, if your doctor permits. This will help you maintain your muscular strength and circulation.

Resist feeling as though you’re doing “nothing.” Revise your notion of productivity. You are making a baby, you need to rest.

Find support. The physical therapy and social work departments at many hospitals offer support groups for patients on bed rest. These groups allow you to voice fears and complaints and get ideas for coping. In addition, many agencies that offer help for new mothers also provide help for women on bed rest.

Keep supplies nearby. Bedside essentials may include writing tools, tissues, the phone, a radio and family photos. Consider renting a compact refrigerator to keep food and drinks nearby.

When life on bed rest seems intolerable, remind yourself that your “efforts” are important, and will likely pay off with a healthy, fully developed baby. Once your baby is born, the trials of bed rest will become a distant memory.

Talk to other moms who are on bed rest or experiencing a high-risk pregnancy in our Pregnancy Community.