Relaxation Techniques

Mamas on Bedrest: I Can’t Sleep!

February 17th, 2014

Why is it called bed rest when it’s anything but restful?

Why is it now that you are in bed-or at least reclined on the sofa for much of the day-you can’t sleep?

pregnant-in-bedIt’s a recurrent complaint that I hear all the time from Mamas on Bedrest: I Can’t Sleep! So let’s take a look at what’s going on during pregnancy and during pregnancy bed rest that makes sleeping so difficult.

If you recall, when you first became pregnant, all you wanted to do was sleep (and perhaps be sick, but that’s a topic for another post!). The first trimester of pregnancy is when your baby fully forms. From the moment of conception-the moment the sperm penetrates the egg-the resulting cell is rapidly dividing and growing. By the third week of pregnancy, you may not even be aware that you are pregnant, but your baby is growing and the nervous system is beginning to develop. By 5 weeks the spinal column has formed and by 6 weeks the heart has developed and will begin beating. It is this heart beat that is often first detected on ultrasound. Weeks 7-9 the limbs begin to form as do the inner organs. By 10 weeks the embryo has developed so much that it really does  look like a baby. At this point we call it a fetus and by 12 weeks, your baby has most of its vital organs in rudimentary form. From here on out, the baby will grow and the organs will further develop. So as you can imagine, while your body is giving its all to develop this little being, to form the placenta and to extract nutrients from your digestive tract to nourish your growing baby, it is expending A LOT of energy. During the first trimester, a natural protective mechanism is to make mamas nauseous and tired so that they don’t eat foods that may harm/irritate the developing baby and so that mamas will rest and allow their bodies to use the energy it would normally use to move mama about to help grow and develop the baby.

But in the second trimester, the baby is just growing. The nausea has typically stopped and most of the vital organs have formed and are now just growing and becoming more specified. Mamas typically have more energy during the second trimester and aren’t as sleepy. If during this period you are placed on bed rest, you are in your most “energized” portion of your pregnancy and put to bed. While you do require more rest, if you are in bed all day, able to snooze at random, you can imagine your sleep patterns may become a bit disorganized. To help with this, as much as possible, try to set up a regular schedule and stick to it. Awaken at the same time each morning. Have a routine of things to do throughout the day. If you do feel you need a nap, schedule that in. And have a set time to go to sleep. Having a regular schedule will help your body know when to sleep and when to be awake. It’s not a perfect solution but it has helped many mamas.

By the third trimester, you and your baby are getting bigger and the issue with sleep becomes getting comfortable. With the ever enlarging belly, there is more stress on your lower back, your hips, neck and shoulders and you may be sore. When you are on bed rest, make sure to support your body with pillows to relieve pressure on your shoulders, spine and hips. A Body pillow is a MUST not only for mamas on bed rest, but for pregnant mamas in general. And if you are lucky enough to have a partner who is willing to rub your feet or back, take advantage! Also, this is a great time to have a prenatal massage. Check and see if there is a certified prenatal massage therapist in your area that does home visits. (These make great shower gifts!!!!)

Finally, most mamas on bedrest are so worried about their pregnancies and their babies they often have a hard time relaxing so that they can fall asleep. In order for us to have a restful night’s sleep, we have to shut off our “vigilence centers”. What is your vigilence center you ask? It is the part of your brain that goes non-stop with chatter like,

“Hmm, I haven’t felt the baby move in the last 5 minutes. I wonder if everything is okay? Maybe I should roll over? No, my doctor said to lay on my side. But was it my left side or my right side? I’ll have to ask tomorrow at my appointment. Oh God, I’m having a non-stress test. I wonder what that is? Will it hurt? Will it hurt the baby? I’m pretty stressed thinking about it!….”

and on and on and on! It’s a wonder any of us get any sleep! If this is you, you will need a way to quiet your vigilence center so that you can calm down and get restful, restorative sleep. Many mamas have used meditation tapes/MP3’s with great success. I did a very brief google search and there are several available for free on youtube. There are also meditations for retail on and through such organizations as Hypnobirthing. Any of these that appeal to you are fine. I don’t recommend any one over another. It’s really whatever soothes you and allows you to “turn off your thoughts” and get some rest.

The good thing about bed rest is that it’s not forever! It really does end and once it does, you’ll have an even better reason not to sleep-you’ll be busy caring for your adorable little baby! Hang in there mamas! I know its hard but you can do it. Check out some of the suggested resources and let us know what worked best for you in our comments section below.


Mamas on Bedrest: If You Relax, So Will Your Baby!

June 6th, 2011

Most of us recognize that stress is not a good thing for a pregnant mama or her baby.  Prenatal stress has been associated with poor fetal growth, shorter fetal length, prematurity and low birth weight babies.  Most prenatal health care providers will counsel mamas under stress and try to direct them towards stress reduction programs and treatments. However, until now no one knew if the stress reduction interventions reach the baby, relaxing her, and reversing the negative consequences of maternal prenatal stress.

Nadine S. Fink, PhD, a perinatal clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA and her colleagues looked at the effect of relaxation on 33 pregnant mamas and their babies to see if babies were in fact affected (relaxed) by the techniques. Fink and her colleagues also tried to determine just how the relaxation was transferred from mama to her baby.

The study mamas were instructed in either Guided Imagery (GI) or Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Both relaxation modalities showed changes in fetal behavior. Babies whose mamas engaged in the relaxation techniques were better able to adapt to stress as measured by fetal heart rate monitor variations. Fetuses in the control group (CG) had more fetal heart rate accelerations  an indicator of fetal stress. Interestingly, mamas in the PMR showed more uterine activity than mamas in the GI group or the CG.

Fink and her colleagues concluded that fetuses are able to relax when their mamas engage in relaxation techniques and that the most effective technique appears to be GI. Fink acknowledges that this is the first in what needs to be many more studies of this sort, examining the effects of relaxation on a large population of pregnant women and their fetuses before any clear conclusions can be drawn.

I cannot over emphasize the importance of coping with stress during pregnancy. In addition to the aforementioned effects on the baby, mamas who experience prenatal stress are at increased risk of developing complications such as elevated blood pressure, preterm labor and perinatal depression. If you are under stress do get help. Speak with your health care provider or social worker and find out about resources in your area. If you need further assistance, we are here to help. We can get you started with a Complimentary 30 Minute Bedrest Breakthrough Session. It’s completely free and a way for you to start gathering resources. To schedule your Complimentary 30 Minute Bedrest Breakthrough Session, send an e-mail to