Bed rest during pregnancy: Get the facts

Bed rest during pregnancy is sometimes prescribed to help prevent complications. Here's what you need to know about bed rest, from side effects to making the best of it.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

When you're pregnant, a prescription to stay in bed for days or weeks might seem like a welcome break. In reality, however, bed rest during pregnancy can pose challenges. You might not be able to go to work, shop for groceries or even meet friends for a movie. If you're on complete bed rest during pregnancy, you might not even be able to shower or eat sitting up.

Bed rest isn't a proven remedy for preventing pregnancy complications or preterm birth, and it's being recommended less frequently. Still, bed rest is sometimes prescribed as a safeguard. Understand the complications that might make bed rest during pregnancy necessary and how to cope.

When bed rest during pregnancy might be recommended

Bed rest during pregnancy increases blood flow to the placenta and can slightly increase a baby's birth weight. Your health care provider might recommend a period of bed rest at any point during pregnancy if you have:

  • Vaginal bleeding or problems with the placenta
  • An incompetent cervix — a condition in which the cervix is likely to open (dilate) prematurely
  • Contractions and other advanced signs or symptoms of preterm labor
  • A twin or multiple pregnancy
  • Signs, symptoms or test results indicating fetal growth problems

What bed rest means

In some cases, bed rest during pregnancy simply means decreasing your activity level for a period of time. You might be free to move about the house, as long as you avoid lifting children and doing heavy housework. Depending on the demands of your job, you might even be able to continue working.

In other cases, bed rest guidelines are stricter. You might need to remain in a sitting or reclining position most of the time, only getting up to use the toilet or shower. You might not be allowed to work or do even light household chores until the baby is born.

If your health care provider prescribes total bed rest during pregnancy, you might need to lie on your side at all times — including when you eat. Personal hygiene might be limited to sponge baths and a bedpan. This type of bed rest might require hospitalization.

April 13, 2014 See more In-depth