Coping With Bedrest

Pregnancy bedrest: it isn’t very comfortable, nor is it ideal, but rest assured that you are not alone. According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology one in five women are put to bed for a week or more during their pregnancies. That’s about 750,000 women a year—and even if that statistic doesn’t minimize your anticipated torture, it’s important to be aware that bed rest can decrease the risk of birth complications.

“Sometimes excessive physical activity such as too much lifting, standing, or even sexual activity reduces blood flow to the uterus—this can cause the uterus to get “irritable” and it starts to contract which can force the baby to be born too soon” says Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway, board-certified OB/GYN and author of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy.  “Bed rest is an inexpensive way of keeping the uterus “quiet” and is the first line of defense regarding treatment for uterine irritability or outright preterm labor.”

Still, your doctor’s orders may feel more like an inconvenience and less like much-needed time off. Here, Dr. Galloway’s mental and physical tips for making the best out of your bedrest stint.

Mental tips

  1. Imagine that your uterus is a boat and its passenger is the unborn baby. It’s your job to make certain that the baby arrives to his or her final destination safely.
  2. Get a huge calendar and mark off each day that you successfully remain on bed rest. It’s a cause for celebration because your baby is one step closer to being born healthy and without complications.
  3.  Remind yourself that each day you remain on bed rest is step closer to your baby being cared for in a “normal” nursery and not the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  4. Imagine receiving the “greatest mother of the year” award for following medical advice and remaining on bed rest at your baby’s high school graduation years from now.
  5. Remind yourself that you’re an intelligent person who understands that the good things in life often require sacrifice.

Physical tips

  1. Sleep on your side. When you sleep on your back, the weight of your uterus can compress the vena cava—a major blood vessel which can disrupt blood flow to your baby, leaving you feeling dizzy and nauseous.
  2. Sit up in bed with a pillow supporting your back if possible. Want to avoid “round” or slumped shoulders. Try: Leachco Snoogle Total Body Pillow.
  3. Sit on the edge of the bed with your legs and feet dangling to maintain circulation and prevent muscle discomfort.
  4. Can do upper and lower body exercises such as
    1. Latissimus Dorsi pull-downs that strengthen the shoulder muscles—just sit upright and pull an exercise band down behind your head.
    2. Cat stretches where you are both hands and knees on the bed and stretch your back like a cat
    3. Raise elbows and pull back, bringing the shoulder blades together
    4. Flex feet and toes
    5. Knee raises with the assistance of a resistance bands
    6. An excellent resource for exercises for pregnant women on bedrest is a DVD by Darlene Turner-Lee called Bedrest Fitness. Turner-Lee has a website called Mamas on Bedrest that provides many helpful tips for pregnant moms and Turner-Lee is a physician assistant and also a former “mama on bedrest.”