Bed rest is no vacation. Activities you normally enjoy are limited. As a result, you risk the following physical, mental, and emotional effects, according to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center's Fetal Medicine Division:

Physical Effects of Bed Rest. Reclining for long periods causes muscle cramping, stiffness, and numbness. In addition, pregnancy discomforts such as heartburn, reflux, constipation, and low back pain increase in severity. And bed rest is known to cause muscle and bone loss.

Emotional Effects of Bed Rest. Depression, anxiety, decreased self-esteem, and body image problems can result from bed rest. People on bed rest often become isolated and feel disconnected from the outside world.

Mental Effects of Bed Rest. Resting in bed for long periods of time can impair recall, verbal fluency, motor skills, and concentration.

But take heart — you can prevent and improve these effects with specific actions and with the support of your doctor, family, and friends.

Coping Physically With Bed Rest

You can take action to fight the physical effects of bed rest. Help your body stay comfortable and fit with these suggestions:

  • Comfort first. Wear comfortable clothing, ensure the temperature of the room is appropriate, and keep extra blankets and pillows handy.
  • Healing touch. Lying in bed can make your back and limbs feel sore and numb. Physical therapists experienced in working with women on bed rest can help you perform therapeutic motions that are safe and relieve your symptoms. Ask your doctor if physical therapy is appropriate in your case.
  • Massage benefits. Discuss the benefits of massage with your doctor. If she says it's safe, schedule a regular massage in your home or hospital room to invigorate your body and soothe stiff muscles.
  • Get moving. Check with your doctor to see if there are any safe exercises you can do in bed to keep your blood flowing and your limbs moving.

Coping Emotionally With Bed Rest

When you're resting at home, it's easy to become lonely and isolated. Boost your morale with these strategies:

  • Stay social. Make social dates with friends and family to share a cup of tea, watch a video together, or play a board game.
  • Keep communicating. Communicate regularly with others via telephone, letters, e-mail, or on Internet message boards and chats.
  • Reach out. If most of your friends and family have full-time jobs, contact a local church or community group to arrange home visits from a volunteer.
  • Get support. Join a bed rest support group. If you can't leave your home or the hospital, seek support via an Internet support group.
  • Dress up. To boost your self-image, change out of pajamas and into your regular clothing in the daytime.

Coping Mentally With Bed Rest

Bed rest can take a toll on your mental well-being because you're removed from your normal routine, receiving less mental stimulation, and struggling with boredom. But you can take steps to keep your mind active with these tips:

  • Puzzle time. Keep your mind active by working on jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and 3-dimensional puzzles. Puzzles improve your concentration and problem-solving abilities.
  • Game plan. Play board games and card games with your visitors. Or play computer games on a notebook computer. Games give your brain a work out in terms of concentration, problem-solving, and memory skills.
  • Read. Pick up a novel by your favorite author and lose yourself in the story. Time can pass quickly when you're engrossed in a book.
  • Learn something. Take an online class, video tutorial, or home correspondence course. These allow you to go at your own pace, and you don't have to get out of bed to go to class. Your brain will benefit from the stimulation of learning. And your self-esteem will improve as you accomplish assignments and develop a new skill.
  • Keep working. If you were employed before, and can do any work from home, arrange to do so (as long as your physician approves). If that's not possible, stay current on what's happening in your field by reading newsletters, magazines, and articles on the Internet.

Source: The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center's Fetal Medicine Division

Reviewed by Elizabeth Stein

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

Content courtesy of American Baby