Five Things That Should Never Be Said To A Pregnant Woman On Bed Rest


It was pure hell.

After seeing those two pink lines on that pregnancy test and feeling all the initial excitement and joy of finding out I was a mom-to-be, it was abruptly followed by a diagnosis of a condition called Hyperemesis, (the same condition Princess Kate helped put on the map) where I endured debilitating, unrelenting extreme nausea and vomiting all day for the entire nine months, six months of which was spent on bed rest. AKA the most exhausting six months of my life.


When family and friends would ask me how this oddly named disease felt, I would share with them think of the worst case of food poisoning that you’ve ever had, combine it with an epic hangover, the worst you ever experienced, then multiply that by about a million and that’s about one second of what it’s like to live with Hyperemesis.

During my bed rest stint when many well-meaning family members and friends would call, email or come to visit they would often, unintentionally, make the kind of thoughtless commentary that to a suffering and hormonal pregnant women made you want to lose your mind. Literally. Or at least lose my lunch, oh wait, I already couldn’t keep that down anyway.

There are many reasons that soon to be mothers might end up on bed rest, but regardless of why, there are some common remarks guaranteed to upset even the most patient soul. If you have a friend or family member on bed rest here is a helpful guide on what to never say and how to really understand what they need.

1. “I Wish I Could Lay In Bed All Day”

Nothing makes a sick pregnant woman feel more misunderstood then when they hear this comment. Bed rest is not an opportunity to lounge around all day and watch Netflix eating yummy snacks like the happily unemployed bliss of winning lotto. Bed rest is the equivalent of carrying the most precious thing you ever had across a high wire spanning sky scrapper. Your pregnancy is hijacked by illness and an assortment of debilitating symptoms and that time is spent filled with doubt and isolation, teetering on the edge and hoping you make it through and that your precious cargo is healthy.

Bed rest is feeling removed from the real world, isolated, and giving up all the things you used to do. Basically, there is nothing “restful” about bed rest.

Sometimes, a little empathy really goes a long way. A simple, “I know you must be feeling so cooped up inside by now, is there anything I can do to help?” makes all the difference.

2. “I Had A Rough Pregnancy, Too”

This is often relegated to moms on bed rest as an attempt to empathize and let them know you understand what they are going through. While we do appreciate that, but truthfully unless you were severely sick, in the hospital, and/or stuck on bed rest for months, please know that it is just truly not exactly the same.

If you were still at work and out doing things when you were pregnant (I wish!) but this attempt at shared empathy doesn’t always come off as understanding and can feel more like a dismissive, “pregnancy is always hard” sentiment. For those of us going through this bed rest ordeal it is waking up each day feeling sick, knowing you are stuck inside, can’t work, see friends, got to the gym, get a coffee, take a walk, pretty much do anything and it can really make a women feel miserable. It often feels like your own private hell, understood by no one except you.

When people would say to me while I was on bed rest that they had morning sickness too, I would scream on the inside “this is not morning sickness; this is ALL day, every second sickness.” We do understand that this is just an attempt to share that you also had symptoms while you were pregnant and that you understand how hard pregnancy can be, but at this moment the best thing to really say is just how crappy you know this must feel and you are here to help in any way that you can. And letting us know we are totally kick ass for getting through this is always appreciated.

3. “Can I Get A Drink?”

If you are coming over to visit someone on bed rest please remember that this is not a time where they can really play host. They can’t serve drinks and food and do all the things they normally would. If a women on bed rest is in the thick of her illness, but has to keep getting up to do something and try to be a good host, then they are only reminded even more of what they can no longer easily do, that even the most basic tasks may now be beyond their ability. Instead, offering to bring over lunch, drinks or something we like it is always an appreciated gesture. Even if we just end up throwing it up, the thought really goes a long way.

4.”It Will All Be Better After Three Months”

For some reason, this theory seems to apply to just about everything when women are in their first trimester. No matter what they are suffering from, everyone always thinks it will magically go away after three months. But truthfully this logic is often based on nothing. The very nature of why we are on bed rest is because the doctors can never actually predict when something may resolve. Just a bunch of guesses and maybe this or maybe that. A large number of women have conditions that place them on bed rest that last well past three months. Since we have no way of knowing how long we are in the waiting game, this statement just reminds us even more that there is no definite date of when we will feel better. Plus, even if it did only last three months, three months is still quite a long time to be sitting in your bed, staring at those four walls. The best way to approach this is to offer to do something to help pass the time. Bring over some movies, music or an amazing book. Anything that helps us get through the day and recognizes the slow crawl of each moment when you are stuck in bed.

5.”You Look Great, I Can’t Believe You Are Really This Sick”

Ahh the compliment hidden under the doubt of “can she really be that sick?”. When women are on bed rest people always assume they must look like night of the living dead, fangs out and all. But many of us feel worse if we are lying around looking like death, so we still try to shower and brush our hair, freshen up, put on clean pajamas and try to feel some semblance of our old selves. I pretty much could only leave the house when I had a Dr.’s appointment and once the doctor remarked “you look nice, are you going to a party after this” Ha! If only…

The kindest thing you can say to a woman at this time is just that despite all that they are going through they are handling it like a super hero, a pregnant superhero who, even with all of these challenges, still manages to look great! During my time on bed rest a friend once brought over some yummy candles and lotion and body scrubs and it was the closest I was going to get to a spa day at that time. Even better? When she painted my nails since I couldn’t go to the nail salon…it was a mini home spa day and cheered me up for the first time in weeks.

Pregnancy can be a roller coaster for all of us and for those women living in the confines of their bed, it can just feel endless. Sometimes just hanging out with us, watching a movie, talking, and letting us know you are there can go such a long way in making us feel connected to the outside world.

Of course bringing over some delicious chocolates always helps, even if we can’t keep any of them down!


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  • I can’t see the original post date for this writing, but THANK YOU for putting it out there!

    I had hyperemesis gravidarum for BOTH my pregnancies; people just don’t get it — it’s NOT morning sickness, it’s unbearably difficult and scary and intense and it LASTS UNTIL THE BABY is BORN.

    My oldest will be 4 this November and with him, my midwife didn’t even TELL me what I had. She kept saying, “Oh, some women have rough morning sickness,” and it wasn’t until after my son’s TRAUMATIC BIRTH (again, because of said midwife) that she mentioned she’d talked to a doctor colleague who EXPLAINED to her that I had something called “hyperemesis.”

    My second son turned 1 this past February 2017 and my midwife for him was FABULOUS and the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of my first. She knew all about hyperemesis. I ended up with more than one (I’d say around 7 total) trips to the hospital for I.V.’s of saline as well as pain meds (because of the vomiting and rapid weight loss I developed gallstones) and everything was SO WORTH IT to see both my boys, but HOLY HELL being pregnant was a miraculous nightmare for me.

    They gave me zofran, and every other anti-nausea drug under the sun. Nothing worked. I did eventually find something that helped, but it’s a controversial secret that you’ll have to contact me about privately. Note: Not goddamn ginger-ale or friggin’ saltines… we’re gluten free anyway.

    Okay, end rant, but THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting this! I felt so alone during my pregnancies, like a huge freak, and reading this REALLY HELPED me with my feels just now. <3

    • I also had severe braxton hicks and prodromal labour — my 1st midwife didn’t believe that I was in labour (prodromal labour is TRUE labour but it starts and stops, so you dilate, but then everything stops… until it begins again — this went on for a month with my babies) until I badgered her to come over and check me– surprise surprise, I was DILATING.

      Thank goodness my 2nd midwife (with my 2nd boy) knew what the heck I was talking about; she was supportive and checked me without my having to beg her to come over.

      Pregnant women are SUPERHEROES!

  • I am an RN and work with woman who have Hyperemesis regularly and this article is very true! It is a vicious condition and almost all women with severe cases of it end up on bed rest or in the hospital at some point.

    I remember many of my patients complaining how people always tell them to "enjoy being in bed" and how frustrating it was to hear that all of the time! This was a really well written and true to life article! Will definitely be showing it to my patients.

  • I was on bed rest for two days when I had bleeding in the first trimester and they weren’t sure what was causing it. It was awful, especially because I have a toddler and he desperately wanted to play. I was so very, very grateful that it was only for a short period of time. (I ended up with other restrictions for about 3 months, but those were nothing compared to the horror that being stuck in bed rest would be.) I have so much sympathy for nine months of that awfulness.

    Also, Denise, I believe if you are continuously puking your brains out (as one is with Hyperemesis), not being on bed rest isn’t really an option. That’s like telling someone with a serious stomach flu that "light activity" would really be better for them than lying in bed. Sometimes lying in bed is literally the only thing you are capable of doing.

    • I can’t imagine nine months either! And, yes, you are correct! If you have Hyperemesis then you absolutely can not be moving around and doing any light activity! Plus, women with Hyperemesis have excruciating pain, nausea and vomiting and there is no way they should be doing anything, but resting in bed!

  • This article makes no sense to me. It is 2016. ACOG no longer recommends "bed rest". That practice was abolished long, lon ago after it was estabished that inactivity during pregnancy = blood clots and excessive weight gain. If your doctor recommends bed rest, find a new doctor. Light activity is okay, but bed rest is not.

    • Denise-I am an RN and work in labor and delivery and Bed Rest is ordered for many different conditions and when a women has severe hyperemesis, as this author did, then bed rest is absolutely crucial. These women are extremely ill, vomit violently all day and have excruciating and unrelenting nausea. "Light activity" and moving around is absolutely NOT possible in any way shape or form. Bed rest is not a "one size fits all" is ordered for many different things and in the case of Hyperemesis it is essential for their survival that they be in bed, In addition, many women with HG often have at home IV’s due to the severe dehydration or an at home Zofran pump that is injected daily and it is impossible to be doing any form of activity with this in your arm.

  • I was only on bed rest for a week before my kiddo was born at 32 weeks, but I was on strict hospital bed rest & continuous fetal monitoring. So a lot of this post doesn’t apply to my situation. I was in a hospital an hour away from home (the hospital in my town couldn’t handle such a young preemie), & I wasn’t even allowed to get up to use the bathroom, let alone shower or grudgingly serve drinks. I had a catheter & was hooked up to a fetal monitor 24 hours a day. I asked if I could go home & do bed rest there, where at least I’d be able to sleep for more than three hours without someone coming in to draw blood, but no dice. & every day, the perinatologist came in & told me I was having a C-section in an hour, or 20 minutes, or whatever, & then they would come back & cancel it after looking at my labs again.

    Blah blah blah. Bed rest sucks. & has also not really been proven to help in a lot of situations where it’s the standard treatment. I had pre-eclampsia & there is zero evidence that bed rest helps with that. But of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I was just panicking & doing what the doctors said I had to do to keep my baby alive.

    • That sounds awful!

      Yes, bed rest is ordered for many different reason and sometimes it may not always be totally necessary, but in the case of woman with Hyperemesis then these women must be in bed. They vomit violently, have excruciating nausea and suffer in tremendous pain so it is not even possible to be moving around. But you are correct with pre-eclampsia it has not always been proven to help.

  • I was on bed rest from 34 weeks until delivery for CRAZY intense Braxton Hicks (like couldn’t even walk two feet without getting them) and unexplained bleeding. My work was so lame about this and mad that I had to go out on rest. My co-workers were all "oh it must be nice to be home and still getting paid" (since I was technically on short-term disability at the time). It was not fun at all though! I couldn’t do anything but all the baby stuff I needed to do was sitting right in front of me taunting me. And the BH’s were unbearable! And of course all the pregnant ladies who had BH’s as well were like "oh yeah I had those." So does everyone and their mother, but not to this extreme! It was such an annoying time!

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