What is it like to be on bed rest?

I hear so many stories about pregnancies that include being on bed rest for months at a time. I am trying to figure out what this is like psychologically–to be alert, feeling good, but confined to bed for weeks and weeks.

So, what is it like? Psychologically? Practically? How does one keep one’s self occupied? And what does bed rest actually involve–does one have to stay in bed, or can one migrate to the sofa or to a lounger on the back deck sometimes?

Bed rest was not easy for me. Not one bit…My OB sentenced me to 2 weeks bed rest in the beginning of my pregnancy - due to some spotting and a history of miscarriage. By the the 2nd day I was losing it and driving my poor husband crazy. I read a great deal, watched DVDs and tried to stay positive. I mainly stayed on a chaise in our library. The bed just struck me as a little too “Camille”…I did cheat a little the last week. I hung out on the porch and on the sofa downstairs. I didn’t see any harm as I did have my feet up. Oh, and I did go on the computer a couple of times. Bad Shana.

However, when my Lyme disease was in full swing I was in bed for quite some time, but I was so out of it and sick that I don’t think I cared all that much.

Awful, awful, awful, horrible, boring, awful. Did I mention awful. By the way, I was only on bed rest for 1 week.
I had surgery on a herniated disk almost two weeks ago. I was confined to lying down for the first 4 days. After that, I could get up but only to walk. No sitting, no exercise, no work, no nothing. I have two more weeks before I can go back to work and I’m going to go insane. I have trouble driving and technically (and legally) I’m not supposed to be doing it so I can’t really leave the house without an escort. The few time’s I have done it, I have to hold off my pain killers until I’m home for good. Sitting is still uncomfortable so most of my time is spent lying down. Daytime TV sucks big ass so I’ve taken to sleeping all day and staying up all night.
I can’t imagine how anyone can spend months in bed. Just being stuck at home with nothing to do is awful. Those first 4 days were some of the worst I’ve had in a long time. I actually wanted to be at work.

I was on “rest” at home (in Japan) from 25 to 30 weeks of pregnancy and then 30 - 36 were spent on total bedrest in the hospital.

I was doing so well in my second pregnancy, too, keeping my weight on track and not ballooning, and getting plenty of exercise.

Then I went for a regular check up at 25 weeks and got a scan. The doctor told me that I had partial placenta previa, where the placenta grows over the cervix, thus blocking the way out for the baby. She told me not to worry as most of them resolve, but to be careful to avoid heavy work or allowing my belly to contract, and no sex… (I immediately began having utterly uncontrollable horny thoughts.)

A couple of weeks later I went back and she looked again - it had moved - right over the cervix to become a complete placenta previa. I was allowed to stay home long enough to arrange for MIL to come and stay with us for three months to look after my three year old, then went into hospital at 30 weeks.

The doctor said mine was a really bad one, with a fetal artery and a maternal vein (or the other way round, I can’t remember!) going right across the cervix, in a very thin bit of placenta. (As she was showing me this on a scan, she was telling me that it really didn’t need to be disturbed, and just then the baby stretched out his arm and POKED me, really hard, right there!)

Anyway, what was it like? At home I kind of ignored it for a couple of weeks until I read on the Internet how dangerous PP can be. That frightened me into behaving. It was awful for the four or five days that MIL and I overlapped. I would be lying on the sofa reading a book, and she’d be bustling about bitching about how lazy I was. DH said I should not have been reading the book but looking apologetic. I don’t think she ever understood why she had to come, when I wasn’t “sick”.

Hospital was HORRIBLE for the first 2 weeks. I was confined to my bed, only allowed to go the toilet and have a ten minute shower once a day. There were four of us in the room; a woman with triplets (she was 155cm tall and on the day before she had them, she was 150cm ROUND!!), a woman with twins, one of whom would need emergency surgery as soon as he was born, and a woman with early contractions. The three of them saved my sanity, as we ended up bonding, chatting, and becoming very good friends. (There was nothing else to do, eh??)

I tried to keep a routine; every day I got up and tidied my bed and lay on top of it (it was summer, and hot). I dressed properly every day too, no socks or anything but proper pants and a T-shirt. The idea of being two months or more in pyjamas made me want to slit my wrists.

After the first couple of weeks I adjusted to it - got kind of “prisoner syndrome” I guess. I did work on my computer (got special permission to go down once a day to the next floor to the phone with the computer connection!), and marked my students’ papers (a friend taught my courses for me but brought me all the marking so I could keep tabs on them) I kept a journal, knitted two baby blankets, two or three sweaters for my own baby and one for each kid in the room with me. (6 of them!!)

By about week 34 everyone was getting very antsy - shall we wait till she bleeds (I never did; not a drop!) or shall we get it out now? We decided to go on every day that we could, until I made it to 36 weeks when the doctors had had enough, and the baby was taken out.

Then it was really weird - all the focus had been on getting the baby out safe and whole, and he was. But I went from being totally healthy and totally bored to having lost 2 litres of blood, unable to sit without fainting, and in such PAIN. There were three separate pains; one from the hole in my belly, one from the cut to the uterus which had been done right to one side to avoid some of the placenta (some was cut) and one where the placenta had had to be detatched (it had grown in a bit) on the other side. I could feel them all individually for a few days. Uhhhh. And I didn’t recover very quickly, I think because I had lost all my muscle tone from doing nothing all those weeks.

It took me ages to get better properly - we were in hospital 12 days after the birth, and I came home to an active, rather disturbed from not having his mum around, toddler. My MIL had had more than enough of him by that point and insisted on leaving three days later. My husband went away on business the same day as she left. It was hell.

BUT… I got a healthy baby out of it, and I survived, too. In past times, we’d both have died. The bed rest helped the baby stay where he should as long as possible, which was the best thing for both of us. And I made three very good friends. And learned an incredible amount of medical Japanese! So it was all worth it.

I did six months of bed rest many years ago. It was the only way to give the pregnancy a chance of going term, and most likely the only pregnancy I would hold. So if I wanted a baby - and I REALLY did - then bed rest was it.

In my case, bed rest meant not moving from the bed other than going to the toilet. The slightest exertion would start the bleeding.

There were a lot of tears as I worried about my baby. Helpful people kept telling me that the problems were Nature’s way of ridding me of a deformed child, so I would be better to let it naturally abort. That helped big time! There was a lot of guilt because I was doing nothing and therefore causing a burden on others, especially my husband. Lots of other stuff which I look back on as just a result of bad thinking. Easy to say now.

On good days - which came as I got used to the fact that bed rest was controlling the bleeding and the baby was growing - I read a lot. I started writing stuff (I am now an author). I watched TV and knitted. I taught myself some things I wanted to learn about - from embroidery to maths. I planned meals for when I would be up and about, reading recipe books and planning for living on a strict budget, and prepared for motherhood.

When I finally gave birth to a perfect daughter with not a thing wrong, I was physically weak. But I had really come to terms with motherhood in a way that my working friends had not. I had read and thought it through and planned. Most of all, I really appreciated the gift of a child.

I had almost no problems with parenting our daughter and I really appreciated what I had achieved. I vowed, as a result, that I would enjoy this wonderful child and not be one of those parents who manages a child, full time job, and everything else complaining about having to bath or feed her. I would enjoy this child even if it meant less money and a messy house. And I did. My daughter now tells me she considers her childhood to be as good as it could possibly have been. How much that is to do with the struggles of pregnancy, I don’t know. One great kid was worth it all.


I’d like to thank the people who have responded so far; insight is a good thing!

And special thanks to lynne-42 for gracing this thread with such a lovely story, and one of her precious few posts.

I’ve never been on bed rest, but I do have another perspective. I was five when my mom was sentenced to bed rest during her pregnancy with my sister and it was AWFUL. For me, I mean. I’m pretty sure this is the basis of my absolute horror of pregnancy.

So, if any of you have older kids who witnessed your bed rest during pregnancy, don’t be too surprised if they grow up to insist they will never ever ever have children.


You could not have said anything I wanted to hear more and has never been said to me before. I made a decison not to have more children because I would be required to go to bed rest again to hold the baby. I made that decision because I didn’t want to do that to my daughter. I was constantly criticised by all and sundry for having an only child. I still believe it was the right decision. Thank you for confirming that.

It must be very hard for those who do not have that choice up front and find, once pregnant with a second, that bed rest is required.