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Being on Bedrest

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Pregnancy & Childbirth > Being on Bedrest



Surviving Bedrest

July 2003

Hi -- I have recently been put on bedrest for pre-term labor, and I have been disturbed at messages that I am getting from health care professionals. They tell me that there is no evidence that bedrest does any good (and, more to the point, they seem quite skeptical that it will help), but they want me to do it anyway because this is what people have always done and ''it doesn't hurt.'' But -- as anyone who has ever been on bedrest knows -- it does hurt, in a myriad of ways. So -- I'm spending my bedrest time researching this whole issue. Do any of you know of good resources of information about effectiveness of this treatment and the toll it takes on women and their families? If any of you have personal stories to share about how you survived it, I'd love to hear those as well. Thanks --


I was on pregnancy bed rest for most of my first pregnancy. It was for bleeding during the first two trimesters, and for preterm labor in the 3rd. Everything you say is true, that there's not much evidence that it helps and that it does ''hurt.'' Physically it's uncomfortable to be in bed, and you get completely out of shape. Emotionally, you lie there and worry. Knowing that I am of this opinion, one might wonder why I did it. It was because there was nothing else to do, and I wanted with almost pathological fervor to know I had done everything possible to save what was an extremely difficult pregnancy to both conceive and carry.

I had a perfectly healthy baby girl at 37 1/2 weeks, 6 lbs 4oz. She's an amazing 4-year-old today.

Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to talk. Karen


One of my students experienced pre-term labor and extraordinary sciatica in her 7th month! I suggested she see a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner to help bring her energy upwards. The session, only 1 hour long and in my student's home, relieved the sciatica in 30 minutes, she said, and she carried her baby to term. Incidentally, the sciatica never recurred nor did she have any pre-term labor after that. To find someone in your neighborhood experienced in this healing art, you can email me or call the main office in scottdale, AZ at 480-998-9331. nmhudson
I'm sorry to hear that you're experiencing pre-term labor. You didn't mention how far along in your pregnancy you are; I had pre-term labor with my first pregnancy starting at 23 weeks (with classic symptoms some bleeding, an unbelievably bad backache, and some cervical effacement), and was in the hospital on bedrest (and drugs -- magnesium sulfate and terbutaline) until 28 weeks, and then at home on complete bedrest (and terbutaline) for the next two months. (Baby was born -- healthy and breathing -- at 35 weeks). I also read that it isn't very conclusive that bedrest is effective to prevent pre-term labor. But to me it makes sense to minimizie the pressure on your cervix in particular, and to reduce the strain on your body in general. And, because the consequences of a baby being born extremely early (say before 28 weeks) are so dire, it seemed well worth it to me to do ANYTHING to keep the baby growing inside for as long as possible. I know it's really difficult and uncomfortable and frightening (especially if it's very early in your pregancy) -- I read a lot, knitted, watched many, many movies, shopped for baby clothes on-line a bit, put a bird feeder outside the window, meditated often, had a few massages...and I really, really stayed in bed ALL THE TIME, except to use the bathroom, and to take a bath at night -- which felt like the most incredible luxury imaginable. I'm happy to talk more with you about my experience, and what I feel helped us (medically, emotionally, physically...)end up with a healthy, just-a-bit-early baby. Alysson
I was on bedrest for 3+ months and could only get up to go to the bathroom or perhaps answer the doorbell. I was also on Terbutalin (sp?). I had to monitor my heartbeats for a full minute before taking the meds, 4X a day, which meant I had to do this even at 2 a.m. If my heartbeats were irregular or too fast, I had to rest with my feet elevated above heart level and try again in an hour. My daughter, born at the right time and healthy, is now 16.

It was definitely a drag, but I witnessed first hand what happened if you didn't follow Dr.'s orders I was hospitalized for 2 nights when the pre-term labor started because they couldn't get the contractions to stop right away. I shared a room with a young woman who would not do the bedrest and she was ordered to bedrest in the hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy (granted, she was much farther along than I, but think of the expense and the needless danger she was putting her baby in!). Then, after a month or so of bedrest, I was permitted to go to Childbirthing classes as long as my husband drove. Another woman in that class flaunted her bedrest rules and wound up having her baby too early and well before the classes were over.

It was a big bother, and I gained too much weight, but it was worth it to me to have a healthy, full-term baby. Also, toward the last few weeks, I could stop the meds and actually go for short walks with the Dr.'s permission, so it can get better! Happy I Did It


I was on bedrest for the last 5 weeks of my pregnancy, not for preterm labor but for preeclampsia. So, while this is a very different thing, I can only give you some advice on how to get through this. I wouldn't recommend spending your bedrest time researching the bedrest issue, because unless you're planning to get out of bed as a result, it seems as though you're in there for good, so you might as well figure out ways to make it easier on yourself. Although I would always advise you to trust your body. Has being in bed stopped whatever preterm labor symptoms you were having? For me, staying on my left side definitely kept my blood pressure down, so I had some tangible evidence for myself that it was good for me. Are you still spotting, if you were? Are you still cramping, if you were? I would say that if any of your symptoms have improved even in the slightest, bedrest is working for you and you should stick it out!

Okay, first of all, there's no harm in just saying outright Bedrest sucks and it's very very boring! I don't know if you have other kids (I didn't) but that would definitely make things worse. The first thing you have to do is ''let go'' of whatever responsibilities you would normally be doing, be it making dinner, doing laundry, washing dishes, whatever. You can't do them anymore, you just can't, so as much as you don't want to, you have to give up your control in that area. There's no point in lying there bored out of your mind, and also worrying about the dirty kitchen. Either the kitchen will be dirty, or somebody else will clean it, and that's it. Recruit your friends and family to come over and help out around the house, make meals, do some laundry, etc. Your friends are probably already offering to help, and even just an hour of their time would make a big difference in your daily life.

You obviously have internet access in there, which is GREAT. I spent a lot of time at http//www.babycenter.com. I read every single piece of information there was about labor and what to do with a newborn. They also have bulletin boards and chatrooms where you can connect with other women in your same position (that is, your left side.. ha ha!). There's also an organization called Sidelines (http//www.sidelines.org/) devoted entirely to being on bedrest, which can give you lots of helpful tips to surviving.

Make lists of everything you think you're going to need once the baby comes, and buy it all online. If you need help making a list, post another message here and I'm sure we can all come up with one for you! Get your partner to drag a television and VCR into your room and then get him or her to rent you a ton of movies and spend all day watching them. If you're too braindead to read (which is entirely likely) get books on tape, you can buy them online or get someone to check them out of the library for you. I went through all 27-something hours of the first Harry Potter book while lying there.

One thing that particularly struck me about lying in bed all day was how hard it was to stay awake. Looking back on it now, I long for any occasion where I could complain about sleeping TOO much, so if the feeling of sleepyness overtakes you, just let it, and don't feel guilty about it!

Good luck! You WILL get through it, you will, I promise!! I did, and now 18 months later I have a very healthy son and he has a healthy mom. Jill


I'm sorry about your being put on bedrest. I was on bedrest for 20 weeks of my 39 week pregnancy two years ago because of PTL and a prior loss. I know it's really difficult, but the end result is so worth it. I was totally willing to do it because I knew the heartbreak of losing the prior pregnancy and would do just about anything to avoid that result again. You don't say if you have other kids, but I imagine it would be a whole different thing with other kids around to take care of.

If not, just try to enjoy the time because it's the last you'll have to yourself for a long time. There are some really good resources. Sidelines.com hooks you up with a mentor who's been through it. Inciid.com has lots of information on high risk pregnancies and an interactive bulletin board where you can ''talk'' to others going through the same thing.

Yes, it's hard on the family, but now is the time to call in your friends, family and neighbors to help. You'd be surprised how many people are willing to do things for you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Alison


It is difficult to be on bedrest, I know. I did bedrest from Week 16-Week 37, when my waters broke on one of my twins'. But it worked, and now I have two healthy beautiful twin girls, who are nearly three. yes, it was difficult, boring, and there is some debate about whether it works or not, but for me, I felt it was critical for the success of the pregnancy. It was recommended by my doctor, as the only chance I had of keeping the pregnancy. And it worked. I never gave it a second thought, of whether I should or not, although another doctor tried to dissuade me from it, saying, it was not really necessary.

I know, for me, just knowing I was doing everything I could for the safety of the lives inside of me, made me know, if anything did go wrong, I would know I have done my very best. Also, I should say, that my mother had to be on bedrest for me when I was in her womb, and my own survival was a testimony to her persistence and desire in having me. In fact, it was lovely to have my mother come and help for two months during my bedrest. Yes, it was difficult, but now that it is over, it feels like a long night of uncomfortable sleep, three years ago! Friends helped a lot by bringing in food different nights of the week; and i talked on the phone a lot.

If you would like to talk to me personally, reply to me, and we can talk. nagara


I'm sorry to hear that you are on bedrest. I too was on bedrest from week 31-36. I wasn't even allowed to sit at the computer. Bed rest did seem to help my situation. I had continual contractions and was 50% effaced at 31 weeks. I had contractions for about the first week of bedrest and then the contractions stopped. Bedrest was God awful but having a preterm baby would have been worse. I do think that bedrest helped and my feeling was better safe than sorry. I watched a lot of movies, read books (I couldn't work), had friends come over etc. I would be happy to communicate with you further about all of this so feel free to email me if you wish. Good luck and this too shall pass. mdunphy
My doctor put me on terbutaline and recommended bedrest (although not strict bedrest) when I started pre-term labor midway through my pregnancy. However for me, ''resting'' at home was very very stressful (I am rather high-strung and have a hard time sitting still during the day, much less lying down). And since stress caused me to have contractions, bedrest was counterproductive. So I took it easy in my own way (went to work only part-time, no exercise, avoided stressful situations). I still continued to have contractions, sometimes a lot of contractions, but in the end I had to be induced at 40 weeks! Best of luck to you! anon.
I was placed on bedrest for preterm labor at 30 weeks. I really do believe it helped me carry my son until 24 weeks. It was really REALLY hard staying on that sofa all day but I remember my doctor telling me that every time I sat up, my cervix opened up a little more. It's really hard on a family because my husband was still able to go to the gym, work, etc..... BUT....I know it's the best advice. Get some movies, put the computer next to your bed and know that a small baby is harder than a full term one. Good luck anon
I had pre-term labor with my first child. I was put on bedrest in my 27th week and was told to get up on my feet again in the 37th week. Guess what? I ended up running around with my usual cramping and in my 42nd week, the doctor said she was going to have to induce me if I didn't go into labor soon. I was on the medication that begins with a ''t''...can't remember it's name now.....asmathics take it....it keeps smooth muscle tissue from contracting.....so theoretically including the uterus....anyway..........

It was my first and my poor husband did quite a bit of running around during those 10 weeks. I mainly moved from bed to couch and spent time either working on the computer (I created a personal accounting system, for example), researching my condition and then things like updating all my photo albums, updating address books, and a myriad of paper organizational things..........did quite a bit of reading, too. What was most difficult for me personally was feeling guilty that my husband bore the brunt of doing things, feeling bad that I could not indulge myself in all the typical nesting stuff (the baby room wasn't ''done'' until months after the baby came.....not that this turned out to be an issue anyway), and then the sheer frustration of feeling ''reduced'' to incubator status........(I know this sounds harsh, but believe me, no one really understands unless they are put into this temporary yet disabling situation..........I did, however, quickly get over it once I was running around again......the good news is....this is only *temporary*...maybe reflecting on that will help?) I also remember thinking it was quite bizarre when well meaning friends would joke about what a terrible thing it was to have to rest........

I could go on and on......instead I'll leave you my email address. Contact me if you'd like to chat some more.

good luck......I feel for you........and keep in mind....as frustrating as this is....it's the first example of the many phases inherent in child rearing.....this too, shall pass...............


I don't have advice about where to research info but I do have some experience with this topic. At 33 weeks I went into early labor multiple times and was put on medication to help stop it. After taking this medicine every 4 hours(including getting up at night) and having it constantly make me feel as if I just had 6 cups of coffee, for two days, I found out that there was no evidence that this medicine actually helped any more than anything else. After discussing this with my midwive she sent me in to the hospital to have a test done..very easy..involved just a swab of my cervix. This test was able to tell me that there was less than a 1% chance that I would deliver in the next 4 weeks. I was able to go about my life normally while having contractions now and then. I ended up being induced on my due date after my water had been broken for 36 hours with no labor. I thought maybe you would be interested in seeing if you could get this test...it may tell you if you actually need to be on bedrest. anon
I was also stuck on bedrest, though in my case I had solid medical evidence that it was necessary - my heart rate and blood pressure would soar whenever I was standing. I was only on restriction for four weeks, but it felt like a lifetime. I spent that time reading anything and everything. Good thing too since I couldn't read anything longer than a magazine article the year following my son's arrival. I also did slow gentle stretches to help ease muscle and joint pain. I demanded regular massages from my partner as well. Good luck with the rest and best wishes for you and your child. Bennett
DO IT!!

Yes, it is true that there is supposedly no conclusive evidence that bed rest will help. But as one of the high-risk pregnancy doctors I saw said, ''Are you willing to take the chance of what would happen to test that theory?''

I am one of those unusual people who wasn't totally annoyed by bedrest (4 months). And here's the reason: I had 3 miscarriages before that. So I considered it a blessing to have made it as far as I had and I was happy to do anything at all to try to make sure I had a healthy baby.

Some tips
- check out sidelines.org (online site for women on bedrest); they have good publications you can order, too
- a laptop computer in bed is VERY handy
- swallow your pride and ask all your friends and relatives if they could help in specific ways
- have your husband pack a cooler with food beside your bed if you will be alone during the day
- be sure to check with your doctor about whether you need complete or more limited bedrest
- educate yourself (books, online) about your situation
- see a high-risk pregnancy doctor for more info (Mickye Adams, East Bay Perinatal is great)
- become proactive about your healthcare, since you may be getting conflicting advice
- try to keep a sense of humor, and realize that in the end this will be a blink of the eye compared to your whole life

My daughter was playing in the house with my mother-in-law one day during my time in bed. She decided they'd play follow the leader. My 3-year old was the leader, grandma was the follower, and, ''Mom, this game has a bed rester. You can be the bed rester.'' I was happy to do so (and now I have a healthy new baby)! Good Luck!


Bedrest with a Toddler

Nov 1999

I just found out I'm pregnant again, and assuming it takes, I'll have a 2 1/2 year old when the new baby comes. During my last pregnancy I was on bedrest for three months for preterm labor. I've been told it is likely I will have the same problem again. I would love to hear from anyone who has gone through this before and get some ideas of how you dealt with it. We have limited financial resources, so hiring a full-time nanny and housekeeper is out of the questions. One possibility we're interested in is trading room and board for help with our toddler and around the house. Thanks so much for any advice!


If indeed you have a spare room to do a work exchange, please list with Community Living (soon to be renamed Cal Rentals, we think). It's free to list: 642-3644. I imagine you will need a cheerful, imaginative student who can engage your toddler in "active" activities when you are not able to do much but read, sing, and watch TV/videos together.

My sympathies are with you. I, too, had to be pretty much in bed and on Tributalin (spelling?) for the last 3 months. Back then the Blue and Gold market, which is now long-gone, delivered groceries and would put them away for me. I was able to get up a little, to go to the bathroom and answer the door, but that was about it. Thank heavens there are now web services for your shopping!

Sometimes I can't believe I actually spent 3 months literally in bed most of the time. There are times now when it seems like a heavenly idea, but really it was rather boring!


For what it is worth, there is a chance you may not go into preterm labor with your second child, even if you did with your first child.

My wife went into preterm labor with our first and third child (both girls). However, she didn't go into preterm labor with our second (a boy). I have no idea if a baby's gender has anything to do with preterm labor, but I think it would make a fascinating study for someone.

With our third child, our children were 7 and 4 1/2, so my wife was able to keep them home with her. They were old enough to understand that mommy needed to rest a lot. Fortunately, my wife wasn't on total bed rest. She could get up for about a half hour at a time. However, I realize that since your oldest will be only 2 1/2, your situation is different.

I was able to do a little flex time which helped. I worked at home one day a week and went in late on some other days, so I could get the oldest one off to school. We also had to swallow our pride and ask friends and neighbors for help. I urge you to ask everyone you know if they would be willing to help you out. If someone could watch your daughter for even 2-3 hours a day while you rested it would be a tremendous help for you. Also, speaking as husband, tell your husband exactly what you need him to do. As a group, we don't always read our wives' minds as well as they would like us to.

I wish you all the best.


First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! Our second daughter was born three weeks ago, thus ending months of bedrest and upheaval for everyone - especially for our older daughter who is two. The baby - despite being premature - is doing amazingly well. (No ICN for her!)

Our 2-year old is a handful, and seems to have suffered a bit from the emotional turmoil. Some of it is just normal 2-year old stuff, and some of it is because she had limited interaction with Mama for so long. We were very fortunate in that we were able to get a friend of ours to take care of her every day from 9-5. (Took her to Totland, watched TeleTubbies with her). While my wife stayed in bed with a Powerbook and a phone for company, I had to cut back my work hours so I could be home when the babysitter wasn't. But the babysitter cost money and we used up a chunk of our savings to pay for that. Maybe if you can hook up with friends (a Moms' group in your area?) enough people will be able to help out to make it workable. We have no family in the area, and so we were pretty much on our own.

For suport and ideas, start with Sidelines (http://www.sidelines.org) which is a support group for mothers on bedrest. I ordered their "packet" of materials - $30 I think. You are most welcome to it if you want it. They also have chat rooms and so on. Whatever is your style. My only complaint is that most contributors are fairly mainstream regarding the medical profession - we're Bradley "fanatics" and so we question every drug and treatment our doctors suggested (and drove them nuts!) and look for alternatives wherever possible. Good luck!


A thought to the woman who was worried about being bed ridden with a toddler. I don't know if it is feasible or not, but if you were really desperate and there was no one there, you could buy one of those large, containing baby gates and then lie in the middle while your child played around you. At least you wouldn't have to worry about him running all over the house.
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