Understand bed rest side effects

When you're on bed rest during pregnancy, joint pain and muscle aches are likely. Bed rest also can increase the risk of blood clots, especially in the veins in your legs. Decreased bone mass might be a concern as well.

Emotionally, you might feel confined or isolated. Mood changes, guilt, anxiety and depression are common — and your partner might feel the same. Child care is often a source of stress, and your children might feel frightened or confused. If you're not able to work, finances can become a concern as well.

After delivery, the effects of muscular and cardiovascular deconditioning can linger — slowing your ability to get back to your usual activities.

Know the rules

If your health care provider recommends bed rest during pregnancy, ask plenty of questions to make sure you understand the rules.

  • Timing. Why do I need bed rest? When will it begin? Will the restrictions be lifted if my symptoms improve?
  • Position. Is it OK to sit up? For how long? Can I climb the stairs? When I lie down, do I need to use a certain position? What can I do to help prevent blood clots?
  • Personal hygiene. Is it OK to get up to use the toilet, take a shower or wash my hair?
  • Activity. Is it OK to eat dinner at the table? Can I fold laundry or do other light chores? Can I drive a car? Is it OK to do gentle stretching or other types of exercise?
  • Sex. Is it OK to have sex? What about oral sex? Masturbation? Orgasms?

Making the best of it

To make the most of your time on bed rest, consider these tips:

  • Get organized. Make sure everything you need is within reach — such as a phone, laptop computer or other electronic devices, a cooler stocked with water and healthy snacks, tissues, lip balm, hand wipes, the remote control, books and magazines, writing material, and extra pillows and blankets.
  • Beat boredom. Email, text or write letters to your friends. Organize photos or start a scrapbook. Shop for baby goods online. Read your way through the best-seller list. Learn relaxation techniques for labor. Plan weekly menus. Balance the checkbook, pay the bills and update your family's budget.
  • Stay limber. If your health care provider approves, set aside time for stretching or other gentle exercises.
  • Accept help. When friends and loved ones ask what they can do, be prepared with a list of specific tasks — mowing the lawn, shopping for groceries, putting together the crib, cleaning the bathroom, taking the kids to the park or simply keeping you company.
  • Help older kids adjust. If you have other children, provide as much stability as you can — whether it's a regular baby sitter in the morning, a favorite aunt to pick them up from school or weekend visits from grandparents. Do quiet activities together, such as reading books, coloring or watching movies.
  • Seek support. To help maintain a positive attitude, connect with other moms-to-be on bed rest or those who have been through it. Check for support groups, bulletin boards and chat rooms online.
  • Expect emotional challenges. Share your fears, hopes and concerns with your partner. Let each other vent if needed. If sex isn't allowed, look for other ways to maintain intimacy. Take time to kiss, hug and caress.

If the isolation or frustration of bed rest during pregnancy is more than you can handle, consult your health care provider or a mental health provider for additional support. Remember, bed rest won't last forever. Focus on staying healthy and the day you'll be able to hold your baby in your arms.

Apr. 13, 2014 See more In-depth