How to Survive Bed Rest
There are several conditions that might lead your provider to suggest varying degrees of rest and/or modified activity.*** Before you can game plan some coping strategies, you need to know what you’re signing up for and be on board with it. Remember, no one can force you to do anything, but you can choose to operate within suggested parameters in pursuit of a goal.
Questions to ask your provider
Why are I going on bed rest?
What do you hope the modified activity will accomplish?
How long is it anticipated to last?
A set time?
Until a certain goal is met?
Do all limitaions have the same duration?
What limitations are suggested?
What positions are better or worse?
What levels of activity are advised?
Is there a lifting restriction?
Are any types of sexual activity best avoided? Penetration? Nipple Stimulation? Orgasm?
Ok, now that you have a good idea of the parameters you are working within, let’s talk survival:
Find a spot (or preferably 2 or 3 so you can switch it up) to “camp out”. If it’s warm weather, maybe even make one outside. Make a nest with what you’re going to want nearby.
Invest a little in making it the most comfortable space it can be: Mattress topper, one of those chair-pillows, fancy pregnancy pillows, a good lap desk or stand for your computer, a waste basket, nice, long cords for all of your electronics.
Even if it means enlisting a little help, go out of your way to make it a clean and enjoyable space: flowers, clean sheets super regularly, sunshine.
Eating and sleeping can get very weird when you’re limiting activity. You might reach to snack more than usual, out of sheer boredom, or find that your limited exertion has killed your appetite. You might wind up sleeping a ton during the day as a way to kill time, only to have a hard time sleeping at night. If you find yourself falling into these traps, it might help to take some of that ample time you have and make a game plan. How much sleep are you going to get and when? How much and what type of foods do you want to be consuming? Meal planning or tracking calories (Ask your doctor to recommend an appropriate calorie goal) can go a long way.
Online shopping is your friend. It’s existed for non-perishable stuff for a long time, but with instacart becoming more widespread (and many stores offering their own online options), you can now grocery shop online too! If you’re ordering instacart, you may still want to schedule delivery for a time when you will have help to receive it.
Your partner may find themselves facing the brunt of the household chores, with you out of commission. It can help to prioritize which chores are most crucial during this time, and which you can do without. Also, when your friends and family inquire as to how they can support you, don’t hesitate to delegate! Partner burnout during bed rest is real. Prioritizing and delegating can help to avoid the worst of it.
When family and friends ask how they can support you, don't be afraid to let them know what you need. Have a list of household chores that can be easily be done by someone else, like scrubbing the toilet, doing the dishes, or laundry. Ask for a meal train so you don't have to worry about food. It is not a weakness to ask for help when you need it.
If you typically work outside of the home, chances are that your family relies on that income. This is a very real concern and you should bring it up with your provider when discussing your limitations. The practical and stress implications of losing income are every bit as real as the condition your pregnancy is facing and may even exacerbate it. Things like short term disability and FMLA can help to stretch it, but it is very common for families to find that the more time they take off before the baby arrives, the less they will have afterwards. Have a discussion with your employer about your limitations and needs and try to maintain your employment for as long as possible. Discuss modifying your workload, making adaptations to your work space, or telecommuting.
The practicalities of caring for other children while on bed rest vary widely depending on their ages, your limitations, and the time of year. This is also a significant factor that needs to be discussed with your care provider when discussing the parameters you are working within. Sending other children to daycare could help, but may not be realistic. You may be able to save some money by employing a “mother’s helper” that is younger or older than one would typically employ for unattended babysitting, as you will be present. You can plan “mother’s helper play dates” with other parent friends. You may also find that easing things like screen time or pack’n’play time limitations goes a long way. It may not be your ideal, but this is just a single season of life.
It may be a little unorthodox, but a lot of the practical struggles faced by bed resting parents are things that postpartum doulas help with. Call around, a postpartum doula may be willing to do some prenatal work for you as well.
Catch up on all of those shows you’ve been meaning to see on Netflix or become master of your favorite video game.
Read a book or 12.
Have a friend over and play some board games.
Do the NY Times crossword every day, or complete the MENSA Sudoku book.
Use this time to exercise your brain. Take an online class on something that interests you (there are even tons of free ones if you’re not interested in college credits)
Prepare yourself for childbirth and parenting. You can read books, take courses offered online, or hire a concierge-style instructor to come to your home for a childbirth or prenatal breastfeeding class. Interview a doula in-person or via Skype/Facetime.
Indulge in an old hobby or learn a new one. Learn to knit or crochet or work leather and make something for baby (or yourself, you’ve certainly earned it!).
Getting dressed every day will help you to establish routine and feel clean and refreshed every day (even if you’re limiting showers, due to the time spent upright)
Speaking of limiting showers, baby wipes and dry hairspray can go a long way in finding the balance between freshened but horizontal.
Have a friend over and do some pampering.
If vaginal penetration is something that you are avoiding, but arousal and orgasm are still on the table, get creative! There are LOTS of ways to pleasure both parties without it.
If celibacy is the order of the day, you and your partner can go all Victorian and write each other letters back and forth to maintain spark.
Some people may feel like the “bad guy” or pressured by sexy love letters from their partner, even when no pressure is intended by the other party. If you are having difficulty with that, try having your partner express their desire for you but put it away in a box. After baby arrives and you're feeling sexy again, you can take them out and enjoy them.
Socialization & Sanity
Having a daily routine can help to preserve sanity. Wearing day clothes and PJs at appropriate times, having a daytime spot and a night time spot. If you're feeling super ambitious you can even make yourself a little schedule to ensure rotation of activities.
The isolation of bed rest is no joke. Reach out to your friends and family. Have a mental list of who you can call at different times of the day. Set up Facetime dates periodically so you can see their faces. Have people over for coffee.
Take your show on the road! Your friends and family also have beds, couches, and recliners.
Get creative. Have someone push you around the mall in a wheel chair. Who says you can't be on bed rest at your best friend’s wedding? But also pay attention to your body and be willing to call it quits if an activity becomes too much.
Doula Angela on bed rest at a wedding shower
If you are on rest for an extended period of time, it will begin to take a toll on your mental health. This is normal because these restrictions are not. Seek out help. There are now phone or even text/app therapists. If you cannot access these services, make a point of finding someone to work through it with after the fact.
***If you’re here, I am operating on the assumption that you and your provider have discussed your condition and the research, weighed the risks and benefits (medical, mental, social, economic), and have mutually decided to pursue bed rest. The function of this post is not to discuss the advisability of bed rest or to act in lieu of medical advice in any way.