Surviving Bed Rest

In October 2011, marathon runner Amber Miller made headlines all across America. Her feat? Running the Chicago Marathon 39 weeks pregnant, only to give birth hours later. The following year, I found myself pregnant. But my biggest claim to fame wasn’t in sprinting my way into the maternity ward. It was found in lying as still as possible in hopes that a healthy baby boy would be delivered full term. I got my wish when my third-born, whose name means “peaceful victory,” found his way into my arms at 37 weeks. Both Amber and I were victorious in our goals of having healthy babies and healthy pregnancies, though the process looked astonishingly different.

Bed rest often comes as a surprising prescription for pregnant women. The good news is that these days, bed rest should occur very rarely. Dr. Ingenue Cobbinah, OBGYN with Saint Luke’s Women’s Health East in Lee’s Summit states that typically if your doctor is prescribing “bed rest”

it is to reduce work-related stress and to allow for increased awareness regarding baby’s activity level. Taking a patient away from work gives her the opportunity to be managed for certain health-related issues in the home setting, rather than the hospital. Dr. Cobbinah notes that,

“In the past, typical reasons for bed rest included multiple gestations (twins, triplets), intrauterine growth restriction, preterm labor, vaginal bleeding and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.”

Because bed rest can be prescribed for so many reasons, it often takes different forms, too. Bed rest can be a temporary assignment in which the body is given a chance to rest and normalize after a period of high stress or a complication. In these cases, women may find themselves still able to work or perform simple tasks but are given the green light by their doctors to take a nap or put their feet up a few hours each day. In high-risk situations, bed rest may require a much more life-altering assignment, including hospitalization, monitoring and even being bed bound for the extent of the pregnancy. In all of these cases, a health care provider prescribes bed rest for one common goal: to increase the likeliness of a healthy pregnancy for both mother and baby.

If you find yourself among the fifth of pregnant women who are assigned to bed rest, be sure to discuss with your health care provider what the extent of your limitations are. In most all cases, bed rest will require abstaining from strenuous activity, exercise or lifting. The American Pregnancy Association recommends getting clarification on whether or not you may continue cooking or performing light chores, walking, driving, showering or having sexual intercourse. Likewise, if you are assigned bed rest for a long period of time, it’s also important to consult with your doctor about what activities or exercises may help to keep your blood circulating.

Knowing that bed rest is in your forecast doesn’t always make it easy. In fact, one of the great ironies of bed rest is just how stressful it can be. For working women, bed rest can induce guilt or fear when it impacts a job. And for women with children, their parenting responsibilities weigh heavy. Discussing the logistics of your newfound assignment with family, friends and co-workers so they can help you in this time is essential. For so many women, the prospect of asking for help feels like casting a burden onto someone else. But all too often, it produces the opposite result: The people you reach out to for help feel privileged to be offered the opportunity to assist you when you need it most! For me, accepting help not only served me and my baby, but also gave my support team an opportunity to show just how much they truly cared! 

If stress isn’t the overwhelming emotion, it’s distant cousin, boredom, is sure to follow. Here are some ways to make the most of bed rest.

Make a Journal

For those with complications, chronicling the highs and lows of pregnancy can be both therapeutic and a helpful reminder of what was involved in bringing Baby into the world. Journal entries can highlight how you feel on a day-to-day basis, what acts of service friends and family have performed, fears, as well as hopes and prayers for your little one.

Write Thank Yous

Aunt Sue brought beef stroganoff. Your co-workers sent a gift card. And your neighbor has offered to bring your trash can to the curb and back again every trash day. Tell them how much they mean to you and how their acts of service have blessed you with a simple thank you note.

Play Catch-Up

How many times do you find yourself saying, “If I only had the time, I would…?” Now’s the time to do just that! Process through paper piles, update your address book, jot down new recipes, complete that long overdue photo album or start a blog or podcast. Time is on your side!

Join a Pregnancy Community

There’s power in solidarity. Find an online network of women dealing with the same complication or cause for bed rest so you can encourage one another and voice fears or concerns among understanding women.


Life with a little one will be bustling. Now is a great time to connect with friends, whether through phone calls, Facetime, texting or snail mail.

Make Preparations

There’s never a better time than the present to get organized for your baby’s arrival. Pick out baby names and set up an online registry. This is a prime time to take care of your will, insurance, guardianship and financial matters, as well as choose baby announcements and a birth photographer. You also can order nursery items and develop a labor and delivery plan, which includes preferences of who you’d like to have present at the birth, laboring techniques and more.


Try your hand at knitting, crocheting, card making or hand-lettering. Discover a new hobby and make some sweet gifts in the process.

Rest Guilt-Free

You’re on bed rest for a reason. Let it be the perfect excuse to take a mental break, too. Enjoy binge-watching a favorite show on Netflix, devouring a favorite book series or streaming your favorite tunes.

Things to Have on Hand for Bed Rest

  • Lots of water and healthy snacks
  • Your phone, laptop, bluetooth speaker and chargers
  • Remote controls for your TV and blu-ray player 
  • A journal, thank you cards, paper, pens and highlighters
  • Books, magazines and other favorite reading materials
  • Toiletries such as lotion, tissues, nail clippers, a comb or brush
  • Cosmetics


Lauren Greenlee found herself on bed rest with two of her three pregnancies. She writes from her Olathe home.

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.

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