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Women in labor often go for walks down hospital corridors because the movement is supposed to help their uterus contract and their cervix dilate. The purpose of bedrest is to do the opposite: to reduce your normal daily activity so that your uterus will be less likely to contract and there will be less pressure on your cervix. Bedrest is something many women are prescribed when their doctors feel it will promote the health of their pregnancies. It is often recommended for preterm labor contractions; multiple gestation (carrying twins, triplets, etc.); placenta previa; cervical incompetence; interuterine growth retardation (IUGR); and a variety of conditions that can make a pregnancy more challenging.

To what extent you need to curtail your activities depends on what your doctor thinks is called for by your condition and your baby's. Bedrest may mean an extra hour a day in bed or full time bedrest with no bathroom privileges. You may be on it for a brief period of time, or an extended one. You might be allowed to go to work or you may be advised to work in your home. You may or may not be able to do household chores and errands. You may be able to stand and walk around quite a bit, or not at all. Your doctor will recommend positions and locations to rest in, and any pillows or other aids to your rest that might be helpful. Your doctor will also let you know just how restrictive your bedrest routine will be.

If you are put on extended bedrest, you should get a referral from your doctor for a good physical therapist. Extended bedrest can cause muscle pain and weakness, fatigue, backaches, joint pain, dizziness, or insomnia. Physical therapy or a customized exercise plan designed by a physical therapist can soothe and strengthen those muscles, improve your circulation, and increase your joint flexibility. Your doctor might also recommend a massage therapist to reduce muscle pain, spasms, and inflammation if you suffer from any of these as your pregnancy progresses.

Once your baby is born, your bedrest is not quite over. You will need a longer time to recuperate in order to regain muscle strength and recover from both having a baby and being bed bound. But you'll also have in your arms the best pay off in the world for all that resting: your baby.

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