Why You Might Need Bed Rest During a Multiples Pregnancy

Pregnant woman using tablet computer on bed
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With the increased risk of complications associated with multiple births, many moms require some level of bed rest during their pregnancy. Bed rest could be prescribed to alleviate a potential health risk to the mother (such as pre-eclampsia) or for the babies (such as preterm labor). Some doctors routinely prescribe rest after 24 weeks, while others take a "wait and see" approach.

Some lucky mothers will survive their entire pregnancy without much adjustment to their normal routine. However others may require hospitalization or some form of modified bed rest at home. Since there's really no way to predict the outcome, your best bet is to be prepared for any eventuality.

What Bed Rest Accomplishes

According to Amy E. Tracy, author of The Pregnancy Bed Rest Book, gravity is the underlying reason. "Many obstetricians believe that using gravity through a lying down position aids in stabilizing or improving some medical conditions."

Limiting physical activity helps alleviate or prevent stress on the mother's vital organs, such as the heart, kidneys, or circulatory system. Bed rest during pregnancy increases blood flow to the uterus and conserves energy, increasing the nutrients directed towards the babies. Equally importantly, bed rest takes pressure off the cervix and may help keep the uterus from contracting, reducing the risk of preterm labor.

What Bed Rest Means

Bed rest can actually take several forms, ranging from complete hospitalization to occasional resting. It's important to understand your personal limitations and vital that you adhere to them. Clear communication with your doctors will ensure the best outcome, so be sure to discuss all questions and concerns with your doctor.

How to Cope

If you find it necessary to undergo bed rest during pregnancy, you'll definitely need to make some arrangements to cover your usual responsibilities. You may feel overwhelmed and wonder how you'll manage. There are some wonderful resources available to help you through this difficult time, such as Sidelines National Support Network, or your local multiples club. The Pregnancy Bed Rest Book: A Survival Guide for Expectant Mothers and Their Families is an excellent reference guide and is recommended reading for any woman who might be a candidate for bed rest. The book offers options for handling the many issues of bed rest, including work, housekeeping, and childcare.

Your mental and emotional perspective about bed rest will have a tremendous bearing on your physical condition. You will likely feel frustrated, anxious, overwhelmed, or all of the above. Remember, bed rest doesn't last forever. You are doing the best thing for your babies by limiting your activity and giving all your energy to their development. Every minute (hour, day or week) that you nurture them in utero is one less minute they could potentially spend in the hospital.

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  1. da Silva Lopes K, Takemoto Y, Ota E, Tanigaki S, Mori R. Bed rest with and without hospitalisation in multiple pregnancy for improving perinatal outcomes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;3(3):CD012031. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012031.pub2

  2. Matenchuk B, Khurana R, Cai C, Boulé NG, Slater L, Davenport MH. Prenatal bed rest in developed and developing regions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. CMAJ Open. 2019;7(3):E435–E445. doi:10.9778/cmajo.20190014

  3. Cavanagh PR, Rice AJ, Novotny SC, et al. Replacement of daily load attenuates but does not prevent changes to the musculoskeletal system during bed rest. Bone Rep. 2016;5:299–307. doi:10.1016/j.bonr.2016.10.001

  4. Sidelines High-Risk Pregnancy Support. Who We Are. We've Been There. You Are Not Alone. We Stand With You. We Educate and Inform. Laguna Beach, Calif.: Sidelines High-Risk Pregnancy Support 2020 https://sidelines.org

  5. Tracy AE. The Pregnancy Bed Rest Book: A Survival Guide for Expectant Mothers and Their Families. New York, New York: Berkley Books; 2001 https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Pregnancy_Bed_Rest_Book.html?id=3QZGAAAAYAAJ

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