Bed rest might sound like a dream — like a vacation you’d love to have. But bed rest can actually be a terrifying time for moms-to-be, said Parijat Deshpande, a perinatal wellness counselor who works with women who are stressed, anxious and feel helpless during a high-risk pregnancy. It can be “hard, lonely and exhausting both physically and emotionally.”
Women can face a range of challenges. For one, many people might not understand exactly what you’re going through, making you feel even lonelier. You might feel bored, especially if you’re a go-getter, have a “type-A” personality or are used to staying busy, Deshpande said. You might feel guilty for all sorts of things — for not being able to help out as much as you normally would, for not being able to spend time with your other kids, she said.
You also might worry about your baby and whether you’re doing the right thing. You might worry about the financial effects of your bed rest. You might feel helpless: “like you’re just sitting and waiting for the other shoe to drop and not doing anything to help protect your baby.”
You might not know who you are anymore and struggle to feel like a whole person, Deshpande said. You might feel like “your identity has been stripped away and all you are is the carrier of a baby confined between four walls.”
The good news is that while these challenges are real and tangible, there are many things you can do. First, it’s important to get the specifics about your activity limitations from your doctor. As Deshpande said, there are different types of bed rest. “Some women are allowed to stand for 1-2 hours at a time. Some are allowed one 15-minute walk per day. Some have to stay reclined. Others are on strict bed rest and cannot get up except to go the bathroom” — and sometimes even bathroom breaks aren’t allowed.
Below, she shared seven more suggestions for taking good care of yourself when you’re on bed rest. Deshpande combines her professional training and expertise in clinical psychology with her own experience with a very high-risk pregnancy. She guides moms to make simple but powerful lifestyle changes, so they feel calmer and more in control for a healthier pregnancy.
Acknowledge your feelings.
“By not being able to move physically anymore, your body holds on to a lot more stress with far fewer outlets than you’re used to,” Deshpande said. This is why it’s important to acknowledge and process your feelings. Consider journaling, talking to a loved one you trust or seeing a professional who specializes in helping women on bed rest.
This can “help you keep your stress and anxiety low, improve your mood and lower your risk of additional complications.”
Practice mindful breathing.
This simple technique helps you stay calm for yourself and your baby. It helps you intervene when your mind begins racing a mile a minute. It involves “focusing on what it feels like when you breathe in and out, noticing how it feels in your body to breathe and how it changes your body by breathing deeply,” Deshpande said.
Control what you can.
Deshpande tells her clients that while they can’t control what happens during their pregnancy, they can control how they cope with it. “We often forget that we have a lot of agency in our day-to-day lives.”
For instance, she said, you can control talking to someone when you’re upset; working on your anxiety and stress levels; singing or reading to your baby; and picking out what you’re eating and wearing.
Do what makes you happy.
“Moms frequently believe their only option is to endure the ups and downs of having pregnancy complications, feeling at the mercy of problems that may lie ahead of them,” Deshpande said. “But this couldn’t be further from the truth.”
You can focus on activities that make you happy, which is precisely what your body needs to relax, reset and recover from the stress, she said.
Deshpande suggests her clients create a list of activities that rank at least a 7 out of 10 on the happiness scale. For instance, your list might include: watching your favorite shows or movies; spending time with your kids; sitting by an open window; and taking a drive with your spouse.
Do something with your hands.
When Deshpande was on bed rest for her pregnancy, she found it very helpful to do something with her hands. Many of her clients do, too. For instance, you might teach yourself to knit or crochet. You might write or use adult coloring books. These kinds of activities “can really help pass the time and give you something to work toward and give a sense of purpose through your time on bed rest.”
Have a daily schedule.
This also helps the time go by faster, Deshpande said. For instance, you might wake up and eat meals at the same time every day. You might set specific times aside for making phone calls; watching a movie; working on an art project; taking a nap; reading information related to your job for when you return to work; and Googling about your diagnosis, she said.
“I tell my clients all the time that it’s unrealistic to expect that you won’t be online researching your diagnoses.” However, the best way to do that healthfully is to set a timer, Deshpande said. “When time is up, turn it off and move on to what’s next on your agenda.”
Reach out to loved ones.
To minimize loneliness, take advantage of technology. Have Skype or FaceTime dates with your friends and family, Deshpande said. You also can handwrite letters and cards.
“Bed rest, depending on how long you’re on it, can have a long recovery time after baby is born.” Which is why Deshpande suggested giving yourself time to both heal from your delivery and to rebuild the muscle mass and strength you might’ve lost during your bed rest. For instance, you might ask your obstetrician for a referral to a physical therapist, she said.
Bed rest can be overwhelming on so many different levels. But remember that there also are many things you can do. Be sure to reach out for support regularly, whether it’s from your loved ones or a professional — or both. And try to be patient and compassionate with yourself. You absolutely deserve it.