If you have certain complications, your doctor may advise you to curtail your activities or to spend part or all of the remainder of your pregnancy in bed. This is called "being on bed rest." A doctor puts a pregnant woman on bed rest if he or she feels that everyday activity puts the health of the mother, baby, or both in jeopardy. It can be very hard to put your life on hold for a few weeks or months, but if you keep in mind the important goal--delivering a healthy baby--it is bearable.
Likely candidates. Bed rest makes sense with certain complications, including placenta previa (the placenta is low and may be covering the cervix), preeclampsia (high blood pressure), and placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus). It is sometimes prescribed for preterm labor and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), although there is no scientific data to support it as a useful treatment.
Risks. Right now the thought of spending a few days lounging around in bed or on the couch may sound wonderful. However, it does carry some risks, so it should be recommended only when necessary. Without any activity your muscles can stiffen and lose strength. Gaining excess weight is a problem for many women on bed rest. Boredom pushes them to eat more than they need, and their inactivity reduces the number of calories they burn. Women on bed rest may become depressed. The digestive system slows down and stool moves more slowly through the intestines and rectum, making constipation more likely to occur. The most serious complication of limited movement is an increased risk of blood clots.
Ask the right questions. If your doctor advises bed rest, ask exactly what that means. Should you stay in bed all the time, have someone bring you your meals, and get up only to use the bathroom? Should you rest in bed several times a day and perform your ordinary activities between resting periods? Or does your doctor want you to spend your days on the couch and your nights in the bedroom, while still allowing you to go to the kitchen a few times a day for meals and snacks?