I’m finishing week eight on bed rest. I have one more to go before the next ultrasound, which we hope will bring good news. I was on bed rest for five weeks my last pregnancy, too.
As anyone who’s been confined to a bed or couch will tell you, it’s not just a never ending vacation. The physical and emotional toll of long term bed rest can be challenging. So, I thought I’d share some practical tips that have helped me cope with this time. I hope they’ll bring some encouragement to any readers who are similarly bed-bound!
Please note that there are different types of bed rest. Some women are told to stay 100% in bed. Others are permitted to venture to the bathroom, and some may even be allowed modified activity during the day. Please be sure to check with your doctor before following any tips that require physical activity!
1. Find Fun Ways to Interact With Your Kids
I was hospitalized with both pregnancies, one week the first time and two and a half this time around. When I was released to continue bed rest at home, one of the greatest joys was having my kids close by.
Since I’m “stuck on the couch,” we’ve looked for creative ways to play. We read lots of books, color pictures, do art projects and puzzles, and play games. My mom has found several fun craft kits that my five-year old daughter and I can do together. They’ve made the time special.
2. Get a Change of Scenery, If Permitted
If your doctor okays it, take turns laying in different rooms or even outside. My occasional trips out the back door to lay on a reclining chair in my yard have been lifesavers! The sunshine and fresh air add to both my physical and emotional health.
3. Shower, Shave Your Legs, Get Dressed
You know how when you’ve been down with a cold or flu, you magically feel better after taking a shower? Same concept applies here. So, if your doctor authorizes showers, be sure to take them, even if it’s every few days. Also, I’ve learned that shaving my legs feels absolutely luxurious – I’m not even kidding. At the very least, change your clothes in the morning. I realized early on that if I lounged all day in my pajamas, I felt worse emotionally.
4. Get the Right Amount of Company
Inviting people over will help reduce the feelings of isolation. Surround yourself with people who are positive and encouraging. But give yourself space, too. If you feel tired or unable to visit on a given day, be honest with yourself and others.
5. Read; Listen to Music, Teachings, Podcasts
Fill your mind with content that uplifts you. I’ve been thrilled to finish a number of books on my “to read” list. I’ve also listened to great Bible teachings and caught up on some podcasts. Catching up on your favorite TV shows or new movies is ok, too, but I’d recommend moderation. Binge watching tends to make people feel lethargic anyways, and you want to stay away from that as much as possible right now.
You might also consider taking on a special project. Consider knitting, crocheting, writing, or an organizational project that’s been on the back burner for a while. You might even find an online course you’d like to enroll in for personal or professional development.
6. Keep Fresh Flowers in the Room
They will brighten up those four walls you’ve been staring at for days, weeks, maybe even months. I love to be outside, so bringing the outdoors in has helped me not feel so confined to my living room.
7. Release Control Where You Can’t Control
When I returned from the hospital, I was surprised to realize that one emotional challenge is actually harder at home than away: watching others keep my home, instead of doing it myself. Now that I’m on the couch, I see firsthand that no one will run my house exactly as I do. I’m blessed to have a husband and mom who are hard working, diligent and considerate. They both work non stop to keep the kids happy, all of us fed, and the house clean.
But no two people run a home the same way. So, I’ve learned to let go of control and not worry if things aren’t exactly as I would do them. Rather, I daily thank God and my support team that they are so dedicated to keeping our family going in this time.
On the flip side, I try to contribute where I can. Even from my hospital bed, I planned the weekly menu and grocery list. I’ve also been the primary organizer of helpers – contacting friends and family to arrange for people to come watch the kids, clean the house or cook.
8. Stay as Physically Comfortable as Possible
What could be better than lounging in bed week after week? I get to lay here and ask people for things all day. Please, bring me some water. Could I have some grapes? Would you mind remaking the bed for me?
It sounds like being crowned queen, but you can imagine that no exercise and laying constantly on your sides gets painful. Stiff. There are also health risks associated with prolonged bed rest, like blood clots and (sorry) constipation.
Take what steps you are allowed to be comfortable and healthy. Ask your doctor about any exercises you can do in bed. I’m not allowed, so my husband has daily massaged my legs to keep the blood circulating. I’ve also been wearing compression tights and propping my legs up to help with circulation.
My slow walks to the bathroom are a glorious break and chance to move, even a little. I’ve also heard that full body pillows can ease discomfort, and rolling a tennis ball under your back can help with the lower back pains.
My doctor told me not to sit more than halfway up, but I quickly learned that even halfway helps deal with the pregnancy heartburn and with digestive problems from being in bed long term. Be sure to drink plenty of water and get enough fiber in your diet, as well.
9. Recognize and Respond to the Emotions
About seven weeks in, I noticed that every evening, my heart started pounding and my thoughts racing. I felt distraught over anything and everything. I worried about Baby inside me, about our other kids, the house, my own health, our marriage. You name it. With complications in pregnancy, it’s important to avoid stress. I know that, which only added to my anxiety over these borderline panic attacks.
I did some reading and found that anxiety and depression are both common in women on bed rest. That told me two things: 1) what I was feeling is normal, and 2) it’s important that I learn to recognize these struggles and respond well.
So, if you’re a mama on bed rest, know that you’re not alone if you experience anxiety or depression. You’re in the company of others who understand and have gone before you. Here are a few practical ways I’m learning to respond to the emotional challenges:
Be honest. I stop and take note when I feel anxiety, which helps halt the cycle of “feeling crazy.” I also have a few close loved ones I can confide in when I’m struggling. They are quick to pray for me, encourage me verbally, and find practical ways to help.
Distract. I turn on soothing music, a good audiobook, or a Bible teaching. It has to be something that will grab my interest or emotions and help guide them away from the anxious thoughts.
Diffuse lavender and frankincense oils. I’m very cautious with essential oils in pregnancy, and I encourage you to talk with your doctor and do your research. Not all oils are safe during this time, and even the ones that are should be used cautiously. But I’ve found that when I’m up against anxiety, diffusing lavender and frankincense has helped.
Keep a journal. I’ve been writing down the good and the bad, all the emotions, the ways God has spoken to me or blessed us. When I’m on the verge of panic, sometimes it helps to write the thoughts or emotions down. It helps me process what’s happening. Other times, I go back and read how God has been faithful in these weeks and months, and it calms my mind.
10. Remember This is Temporary
Bed rest can feel like an eternity, but remind yourself that this will pass. When you feel weak and helpless (because believe me, I know you do), remember that this is hard work. This is what God has called you to do right now. And He will give you the strength you need each day.
Hang in there, Mama!