Bed Rest Exercises You Can Do In Pregnancy [To Stay Healthy]

Were you placed on bed rest while pregnant and you want to exercise?

You’re in the right place.

In this post, you’re going to learn how to exercise both your upper body and your lower body while in bed.

That way, you can maintain some level of activity during an otherwise difficult time.

Let’s get started

Bedrest-Exercises-In-Pregnancy

Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.

What Does It Mean To Be Put On Bed Rest?

Bedrest is an order given by your medical doctor in an effort to prevent some type of pregnancy complication.

This literally means that you should spend part of your day avoiding physical activity and resting in bed.

While it is a controversial practice (as studies have not found it to be effective), many doctors will prescribe it if they are concerned that you will deliver prematurely.

What can I do on bed rest?

You can be placed on bed rest for one of several reasons. Depending on what your doctor prescribes, you may be asked to lie in bed for several hours a day.

Other doctors simply don’t want you performing any kind of strenuous activity such as working or household chores.

Whatever the reason may be, bedrest can be associated with significant muscle atrophy and deconditioning.

So the first thing you want to do is:

*Ask your doctor what they are comfortable with you doing.*

Most doctors will be okay with you walking once or twice per day.

The Number One Exercise You Should Do

If your doctor clears you for walking, that should be the first thing you should do.

Walking is the most fundamental exercise you can do- especially during pregnancy.

It will help:

  • Maintain muscle tone in your lower body
  • Improve your circulation
  • Strengthen your hips, and
  • Improve your aerobic capacity

When starting out, just listen to your body.

Start with 5-10 minutes a day and work from there.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

The next exercise you should focus on at this time is the kegel.

The kegel exercise is the best way to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which get weak throughout pregnancy and childbirth.

In fact, this is a perfect time to strengthen this muscle group as it can be done while in bed.

kegel

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your side with your knees bent and legs together.
  • Next, contract all of the muscles between your vagina and rectum as if you were trying to hold in poop and pee.
  • (Not a pretty thing to imagine, I know).
  • Hold this contraction for 5 seconds, and release.
  • Repeat this sequence 12-15 times, three times per day.

Keeping your pelvic floor strong can decrease the risk of developing urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse later in life.

Core Exercises

Next up is core work. After the pelvic floor, the abdominals are probably the second muscle group most affected by pregnancy.

Thankfully, you can train the core muscles in a very safe position through diaphragmatic breathing.

diaphragmatic-breathing

Here’s how to do it:

  • While lying in bed, prop yourself up on a few pillows so that your upper body is at an incline.
  • From here inhale as much as you can in a slow, controlled manner.
  • Focus on letting your belly expand gently.
  • Once you reach the end of your inhalation, slowly begin to exhale by gently contracting your abdominal muscles.
  • Allow your exhale to last at least 5 seconds while you continue to activate your core.
  • Repeat this sequence 5 times, three times per day.

This is also one of the best ways to begin treating diastasis recti in the postpartum period.

Upper Body Bed Rest Exercises

If your doctor is comfortable with you doing some light resistance exercises, here is a list of some exercises you can do.

It is important that you don’t do these exercises with strong resistance.

The most important thing is that you allow your muscles to go through their natural range of motion.

Okay, let’s get started.

Band Pull Aparts

To do this first exercise, you will need a resistance bands.

These are the bands I recommend.

This exercise will strength your upper back and your posterior shoulders.

band-pull-aparts

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie down on your back with a few pillows underneath your upper back.
  • Next, grab the resistance band in your outstretched arms at shoulder-width.
  • Begin pulling the band apart without bending your elbows.
  • Pull the band until it makes contact with your chest.
  • Hold this position for 1 second and slowly reverse.

Side-Lying External Rotations

This next exercise also uses a resistance band. It will strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and posterior shoulders.

side-lying-external-rotations

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your side with your knees bent.
  • Next, grab one end of the resistance band with your bottom hand, and the other end with your top hand.
  • Next, place your top elbow directly on your side, and keep your elbow bent to a 90 degree angle.
  • From here, begin externally rotating your hand up toward the ceiling while pulling on the band.
  • Always maintain a 90 degree bend at the elbow.
  • You should feel the back of your shoulder doing all of the work.
  • Slowly lower back down and repeat for 10-12 repetitions per side.

Single Arm Press

The last upper body exercise is the single-arm press. This exercise is great for strengthening your triceps and your shoulder muscles.

This movement can also be done with a resistance band.

single-arm-raise

Here’s how it looks.

  • Sit up in bed, either on the edge of the bed or propped up on a few pillows.
  • Next, anchor one end of the resistance band under your feet.
  • Then, grab the other end and press the band directly over your head.
  • Repeat for 8-10 repetitions per side, and repeat with your other arm.

Okay, so that’s three easy exercises you can do while in bed.

Remember, don’t exert yourself. Go through the movements slowly and smoothly.

Lower Body Bed Rest Exercises

Okay, next let’s go over some exercises you can do for your lower body while in bed.

Side Lying Clams

The first exercise is the side lying clam. This movement is great for strengthening your glute medius and other smaller muscles in your hips.

side-lying-clam-shell

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your side with your knees bent and feet together.
  • From here, rotate the top knee up and out while keeping your feet together.
  • You should feel your butt muscles turning on.
  • To make this exercise a bit more effective, place a light resistance band around your knees.

Heel Slides

The next exercise will strengthen your quadriceps muscles as well as your abdominal muscles.

heel-slides

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your back with a couple of pillows propping up your upper body.
  • Next, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the bed.
  • Then, slowly straighten one leg out as you slide your heel along the bed.
  • Gently bring your leg back to the starting position and repeat for 8-10 repetitions.
  • Do the same with your other leg.

Side Lying Abductions

The last lower body bed rest exercise is the side lying abduction.

This exercise will strengthen your glutes and your hip abductors.

side-lying-adductions

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your side with your knees straight and feet together.
  • Next, lift your top leg straight up into the air slowly and smoothly.
  • Gently lower your leg back down and repeat for 8-10 repetitions.
  • Do the same with your other leg.

So those are some simple low resistance exercises you can do to maintain some muscle tone while on bed rest.

Just make sure to ask your doctor if they are okay with you doing any of these exercises before attempting them.

Also, listen to your body.

If any exercise here causes any discomfort, or feels funny, stop immediately!

What to eat on bed rest to not gain excessive weight

Another important thing you need to consider is your food intake.

Since you wont be very active, you have to be careful with over-consuming calories.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.

Drink plenty of water

There is hardly ever any reason to not drink more water throughout your pregnancy.

It is very common to get dehydrated in pregnancy.

The worst part is, dehydration can cause premature uterine contractions – something you don’t want if you are on bedrest!

Staying well hydrated can also help keep your appetite under control.

  • Try to drink at at least 1-2 cups of water with every meal.

Never let your body experience thirst!

Never let your urine get dark!

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

The next thing you should focus on is your fruit and vegetable intake.

Fruits and veggies are one of the most calorie-light, yet nutrient-dense foods you can consume.

Because of their fiber content and micro-nutrient profile, these foods can keep you full and help control your weight.

So how much should you eat?

  • Try to consume at least one piece of vegetable with every meal.

As far as fruit:

  • Consume 1-2 pieces of fruit per day as a snack or dessert.

Related Questions

What are the common reasons for bed rest?

Here are the most common reasons why doctors will prescribe bed rest. The amount of bed rest prescribed can vary widely depending on the conditions you have.

  • Triplets with premature contractions
  • Short cervix
  • Preterm cervical dilation
  • Placenta previa with bleeding
  • Preeclampsia with severe features
reasons-for-bed-rest-in-pregnancy

What are the main problems with bed rest?

At this time, no studies have proven any benefit for bed rest on the prevention of preterm birth.

Still, it is commonly prescribed by many OBGYNs across the country.

While bed rest may seem nice, it does have a few consequences.

Blood clots

  • One of the biggest risks of inactivity is the development of blood clots. Pregnancy is already a risk factor for clotting, and being in bed all day increases the risk further. Blood clots (aka a venous thrombo-embolism) can be very dangerous in pregnancy as it can travel to your lungs and cause a pulmonary embolus. If you are hospitalized, make sure to use venous compression devices while in bed.

Bone de-mineralization

  • Inactivity also increases the risk of bone loss. You need to use your musculoskeletal system for your bones to stay strong and healthy. If you don’t use it, you lose it!

Deconditioning

  • Lastly, your muscles will begin to de-condition. Just like bone loss, muscle loss can occur. Muscles are one of the most important tissues for maintaining a healthy metabolism and body weight.

What exercises are contraindicated while on bed rest?

All of the same exercises that are contraindicated in normal pregnancy are contraindicated during bed rest.

These include any exercise that requires a lot of valsalva (increased intrabdominal pressure).

These include lifting heavy objects or weights.

Other contraindicated exercises include direct core work such as sit-ups and crunches, and anything that involves excessive twisting.

What’s the difference between bed rest and pelvic rest?

Bed rest is the prescription of limiting your physical activity. Pelvic rest is the prescription of not placing anything in the vagina, including sexual intercourse.

Pelvic rest is often prescribed for conditions that cause preterm vaginal bleeding, but it’s also prescribed for any condition where there is a risk of preterm delivery.

Be sure to ask your doctor for details.

Final Words On Exercising While On Bed Rest

If you have been prescribed bed rest, be sure to ask your doctor what they feel comfortable with you doing.

Some activity is important to prevent the consequences of bed rest.

Good luck!

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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.

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