Types of Bedrest in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman in bed reading a tablet

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Most people are very healthy during pregnancy and have no problems, but a certain number need to be on some form of bed rest for a variety of medical reasons. And the bed rest can vary in how strict it is.

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.

When Bed Rest Is Suggested

While normal activity and exercise are usually fine in pregnancy, there are some situations when doctors may recommend bed rest to try to reduce the risk of preterm birth.

The benefit of bed rest is variable. This intervention may help some pregnant people but not others, and may work better for some complications more than others.

Incompetent Cervix

The cervix opens too early and may allow premature birth. Sometimes this is treated with surgery to close the cervix until the pregnancy reaches a safe age for birth to occur. This may or may not be combined with bed rest.

High Blood Pressure (PIH)

When blood pressure goes too high, it can cause problems for the pregnant person 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 can cause preterm contractions. Although often there is no known cause of preterm labor, these contractions create a situation where the pregnancy is threatening to end early. Bed rest is one of the interventions used to help prevent preterm birth.

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 lead to complications for some people. This means that bed rest should be used sparingly and with caution for most pregnancies. And it may take one of a several forms.

Modified Bed Rest

This type will take whatever form your practitioner advises. It may mean being allowed to work at a desk at the office but being in bed while at home. Or it may mean 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 if it is recommended for you.

Strict Bed Rest

This form of bed rest usually means you should be in bed or on the couch and can only get 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 climbing 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 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.

A Word From Verywell

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

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.