How to Handle Bed Rest

Sentenced to bed rest (or know someone that is)? Great post from Jess on how to get through it.


There’s nothing more terrifying than being told by your doctor that something has gone so horribly wrong with your pregnancy that you have to stay in the hospital until your baby is delivered (either due to labor or emergency intervention). Even if you are only 2 weeks away from your due date, the stress of knowing something could go wrong can really get to you.

There are many reasons a doctor might choose to hospitalize you for monitoring before your due date. Preeclampsia, early labor (contractions, dilation or both), placenta previa, bulging amniotic sac, or premature water breaking, to name a few. Sometimes you can prepare for your stay by being warned ahead of time; other times, like me, you may go to the hospital to get checked out, only to find out that you will not be allowed to leave.

My Story

During my second pregnancy, at only 23 weeks and 1 day, my water broke while I was sleeping. Since I had never had issues during my first pregnancy, and there was no family history of problems, I tried to shrug it off as urinary incontinence. Luckily, I had some lovely ladies in Ask the Chicks encourage me to get checked out. The ultrasound tech at the hospital verbally relayed my fluid levels to me as “high enough to indicate you probably just peed yourself.” So, I started putting makeup on to try to make it to work. Then, the nurse came in and informed me that the test they had run to see if there were any signs of leaking amniotic fluid came back positive. What?! My OB hadn’t come by to explain any of this to me before the Neonatologist visited with the most depressing fetal survival statistics I had ever heard. Less than a 40% chance of survival; if she did survive, there was an extremely high chance of poor lung development, brain bleeds, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, blindness, death after leaving the NICU within the next year… she just kept going. By the time she left and my OB finally came around, I was in tears. And now wearing mascara because of the damn ultrasound tech.

I was admitted into the hospital and moved into a room where I just quietly freaked out, cried, researched, and texted my mom for supplies (phone charger, laptop, clothes). My husband came after work and we just cried together. I wasn’t in labor, which is a great sign, since most women have their baby within 24-36 hours after their water breaking. We made it past that point. The next milestone was 1 week, where a lot of women also go into labor. Passed it. Flash forward to 8 weeks later, and I’m still here. I am so, so lucky to have made it this far. Because of the risk of infection, she will have to be delivered at 34 weeks, so with only 3 weeks to go, the end is in sight! And the survival statistics/chance of injuries are so much better now at 31 weeks than they were at 23 weeks.

Take control of your care

Educate, educate, educate. You need to be informed about what is going on with you. You will feel better about decisions the doctor makes if you understand why. ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT EVERYTHING. The nurses are super helpful, too. Get as much information about what is going on with you and your baby as you can, but I do have to warn you about the internet: some of the information can be overwhelmingly negative. Sometimes the last thing you want to see is a picture of a preemie at your baby’s gestational age. Sometimes success stories are just as bad as the sad ones. I joined support groups on Facebook and Baby Center and there were a few cases where women were encouraging new members “Oh, mine too, but look at her now! She’s 3 and healthy!” only to find out that the poor mom getting all the encouragement loses their baby the next week. Take everything with a grain of salt. Also, learn how to read research papers. All you really need is the Abstract (summary) and Results sections. A few studies gave my OB and I some interesting conversations, and even convinced her to change my treatment. I am so lucky to have a very open doctor who is willing to discuss my care with me. Most recently, I failed my glucose tolerance test and was proclaimed to be diabetic (with no prior history or symptoms). After careful research, I discovered that there are multiple studies that suggest after only 3 days of bed rest (I had already been on 50 days), most patients show glucose intolerance issues. Did this change the fact that I need finger sticks after every meal? No, but we agreed I probably am not really diabetic (my sugar levels after eating are always normal anyway). This will help me avoid having to meet with a specialist (more money!) and possibly be put on drugs by an overly cautious on-call doctor. For researching what to expect with a preemie in the NICU, I cannot recommend enough the book Preemies, second edition by Linden, Paroli and Doron. It has been invaluable in preparing for all the terminology and possible treatments my preemie will need.

Remember, someone always has it worse

When I feel like I can’t take it anymore, I just remember someone always has it worse. Some women who have issues before 24 weeks (“viability”) are told to terminate their pregnancy every time they see the doctor. A woman in my online support group had 3 other kids and her husband was deployed while she was hospitalized for months. A woman I met here at the hospital had to be in the Trendelenburg position for her entire 7 week stay (slightly upside down) AND had already lost 5 babies (her baby is doing great in the NICU now!). In some countries, I just learned yesterday, you are required to have hospital staff stay with you in your room 24/7, even while you try to sleep. While I can get up to use the restroom, some women have bed side commodes, bedpan only, or even a catheter. And, at least I have the chance to be on bed rest; I could have lost my baby already. So, I am very, very lucky.

Ask for help!

This was the MOST DIFFICULT thing for both my husband and I. The first week I was here, my beautiful, wonderful coworkers friends that I am lucky to work with asked if I needed anything. As a type A personality control freak, it was physically painful to ask if they could organize a way to get dinners for my husband and son. And I am SO GRATEFUL that I could ask and they could deliver. We have had homemade dinners 2-3 times a week since I was admitted 8 weeks ago. My husband is still having trouble asking for help. This past week was the worst. He wrecked his truck and our water heater broke in the same day. A friend (with a working truck) offered to help replace the water heater, and my husband was actually going to turn him down!

You can get through this, no matter the outcome, and no matter how long you are on bed rest. You just need to speak up for yourself. If you are lonely, rally more visitors (chaplains and lactation consultants, even if you aren’t religious or don’t intend on breastfeeding, are great visitors). You need to ask for help, and you need to find ways to waste your time while there. And it’s always okay to allow yourself to feel what’s going on–you need to have a few good cries, but don’t dwell on it! You can do this, mama!

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  • I’m just now finding this post. Don’t know when it was published but it would have helped me while i was pregnant.
    I found out i was 10 weeks pregnant by pure accident (during my annual PAP smear) and was told right away to go on bed rest due to placental abruption (i was in shock to learn i was pregnant as i thought the bleeding was my period) and placenta previa. It wasn’t the way i imagined my first pregnancy to be but in the end i had a good support group (GREAT husband plus my mom & mother in law who both live abroad) , i was lucky i had no other kid to take care of, the luxury of being in my own home and mostly i was lucky enough to just be pregnant – something we often take for granted while a lot of women would pay to just be pregnant and won’t care about being on bed rest. I was on strict bed rest for 5 months then was allowed to go out twice a week for 30min at a time (which seemed like a lot to me and by then i was so weak that i would never last the whole half hour).
    I bled until a couple of weeks before delivering my baby – born on his due date. By then my placenta had moved and i could have a natural birth. I wish all women to have a birth as awesome as mine was (karma!). All my friends that had an amazing pregnancy had problems after. You can’t have it all. At then end of the day, what matters the most is that the baby comes out healthy. It’s about being selfless and being a parent before your baby even comes. You put his needs before yours and although it’s not easy you know it’s the only way to save him/her.
    While pregnant i met another pregnant woman on a long bed rest like me and she lost her baby along the way. I never allowed myself to complain after that.

    My baby just turned 11 months and is healthy and the most precious gift ever!

  • Everything is so true! Especially on focusing on how it could be worse. With our first my water broke at 15 weeks but it wasn’t discovered until 20, so I was on bedrest until 27.5 (she was only here three days) – I’m VERY happy to see that your scenario is working out so much better!!!! Congratulations!!!!

  • I was on bedrest for a week with my oldest – I had a partial placental abruption at 24w2d and she was born six days later when I began hemorrhaging. (She’s now two and a half and doing great!)

    Bedrest is HARD. Emotionally, physically. I strongly recommend the website, which connects women on bedrest with mentors who have been in their shoes – it’s a lot saner than the Babycenter boards. I also recommend asking for a hospital social worker who can plug you into all the services that are available – massage therapy, hairdressers, music therapy, talk therapy, physical therapy, animal therapy, crafting, faith-based support, general support groups and homeopathic options like aromatherapy and acupuncture are just a few of the things that are available, but doctors and nurses may not think to offer.

    For distraction, I found online gaming to be very helpful. Sometimes it’s easier to not pay attention to what’s happening to you!

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