Types of Bedrest in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman in bed reading a tablet

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Most pregnant women are very healthy during pregnancy and have no problems, but a certain number of women will wind up doing some form of bed rest for a variety of problems. Some of these problems may include:

Incompetent Cervix

The cervix opens too early and would allow premature birth. Sometimes this is treated with surgery to close the cervix until the pregnancy reaches a safe age for birth to occur.

High Blood Pressure (PIH)

When a mother's blood pressure goes too high it can cause problems for her and the baby. Rest can help reduce these readings in blood pressure.

Threatened Miscarriage

If the pregnancy is in question or if there is bleeding bed rest may be ordered.

Premature Labor

Sometimes the stress of life in combination with the physical stress of pregnancy or for reasons unknown creates a situation where the pregnancy is threatening to end early. Bed rest is one of the tools used to help prevent preterm birth.

The benefits of bed rest vary from mother to mother and for the reason that they are using this tool.

Most doctors and midwives say that the added rest and relaxation are alone beneficial.

But there are also physical benefits of bed rest for some moms, including lowered blood pressure, less pressure on the cervix, and better blood flow to the baby.

Types of Bed Rest

Bed rest is not a one size fits all solution. In fact, there is evidence that bed rest may actually not help and in fact may be leading to complications for some women. This means that bed rest should be used sparingly and with caution for most mothers. That said, here are the types of bed rest you might hear about:

Modified Bed Rest

This type will take whatever form your practitioner advises. For some women, this is being allowed to work at a desk but in bed while at home, for others, it's strict rest hours a couple of times a day. This one does not have a specific meaning, so be sure to ask your doctor or midwife what exactly modified bed rest means.

Strict Bed Rest

This form of bed rest usually means you're allowed in bed or on the couch and only up to use the bathroom. There may be requirements made on how many times a day you can change locations. You may also have restrictions on the stairs and showering/bathing. Be sure to ask.

Hospital/Complete Bed Rest

This form is the strictest and may include hospitalization. You will use a bedpan during this form and not be allowed up during the day. Sometimes it also involves special positioning like your head lower than your body (Trendelenburg) to alleviate pressure on the cervix.

While bed rest seems to have many advantages there are also no studies that prove its effectiveness for every pregnancy complication. The wise use of this sometimes physically debilitating and mentally/emotionally draining experience are highly recommended. Please note that nearly every form of bed rest includes pelvic rest.

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  • Aleman A, Althabe F, Belizán J, Bergel E. Bed rest during pregnancy for preventing miscarriage. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Apr 18;(2):CD003576.
  • Sosa CG, Althabe F, Belizán JM, Bergel E. Bed rest in singleton pregnancies for preventing preterm birth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Mar 30;3:CD003581. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003581.pub3.
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