If you experience certain complications with your pregnancy, your healthcare provider may put you on pelvic rest. Pelvic rest simply means that you abstain from sex for a while. In most cases, it's only temporary. But the guidance shouldn't be ignored. Pelvic rest can help prevent further complications and to help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
What Is Pelvic Rest?
Pelvic rest is a somewhat broad term that means "no sex." However, "no sex" is a little vague. In general, when you're on pelvic rest, nothing should be inserted into your vagina. This includes sexual intercourse and douching.
You should also avoid certain activities that may increase pelvic pressure such as lifting more than 10 pounds, squatting, performing certain lower-body exercises, and sometimes even orgasm is prohibited. The point of pelvic rest is to avoid causing your pelvic muscles to contract or strain in any way.
When your provider tells you they recommend pelvic rest, be sure to get more specifics out of them. You may want to ask the following questions:
- Can I orgasm?
- Can I still work out?
- Is oral sex okay?
Each case is a little different, and you may be surprised at the answers. Talk with your partner about what questions they have as well. The more answers you have up front, the less anxiety will creep in later when you're trying to figure out what's allowed.
Why You May Need Pelvic Rest
You may be put on pelvic rest if you are experiencing pregnancy complications that may put you or your baby at risk. How far along you are in your pregnancy can affect the recommendation. For example, if you have a cervix issue, you may have to go on pelvic rest early on. If your provider is more worried about preterm labor, this restriction likely won't go into effect until your third trimester. Your healthcare provider can explain why pelvic rest is needed and give you further details about what to expect.
The placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy. It grows in your uterus and is attached to your uterine wall. The umbilical cord connects the placenta to the baby. It is the nutrient highway that gives your little one everything they need from you to grow.
Placenta previa describes when your placenta grows low in your uterus and covers the cervix. Your placenta is jam-packed with blood vessels to pass nutrients to baby. Since the cervix is the only way out of the womb, and the placenta is blocking the "door," pelvic pressure could cause placental injury and bleeding.
Vaginal Bleeding During Pregnancy
Many people notice vaginal spotting at some point in their pregnancy. Implantation and stretching of the uterus can cause little dots of blood here and there. But sometimes vaginal bleeding, especially later in pregnancy, can cause your healthcare provider to watch you a bit more closely.
Bleeding in the third trimester can be caused by placenta previa, placental abruption (when the placenta pulls away from the uterus wall), and preterm labor. Your provider may put you on pelvic rest until the bleeding resolves.
Sometimes internal organs, like your intestines, poke out through an opening in your muscles. This is called a hernia. Hernias usually happen in the stomach and groin areas. If you have a hernia with no pain, your healthcare provider will likely just have you keep an eye on it. They may also recommend pelvic rest. Any strain on your pelvic muscles can cause the hernia to push out even more. Pelvic rest can help prevent that from happening.
If your hernia becomes painful, however, you may need to have it pushed back in. This can be done by your doctor, but unfortunately, once it's made a path through that muscle, it will likely pop back out again. Your doctor may recommend a simple low-risk surgery to close the muscle opening and keep your insides where they belong. If you have a hernia, speak with your healthcare provider about the best next steps.
As your baby's only escape route, your cervix plays a vital role in pregnancy. Sometimes your cervix can try to dilate early. An incompetent cervix, or cervical insufficiency, means your cervix is softening and dilating before the baby is ready to be born.
A short cervix is just what it sounds like. Normally, the cervix is longer than it is wide. It stays tight and firm throughout pregnancy to protect the baby and keep it in. A short cervix can have difficulty holding the baby in and can lead to premature labor. Pelvic rest assures that nothing bothers your cervix or prompts it to start the labor process early.
High Risk for Preterm Labor
Premature labor, or preterm labor, describes labor that begins early --- before 37 weeks of gestation. If you experience preterm labor, your provider may put you on pelvic rest. Studies that tried to prove a correlation between sex and labor are out of date and inconclusive. However, many providers still recommend staying on the safe side.
How to Survive Pelvic Rest
Everyone's libido is different. You and your partner may have different feelings about abstaining from sex and those feelings may change during the course of your pelvic rest. If you find yourself struggling during pelvic rest, try to remember that it's temporary. There are also a few strategies that might help make this time more comfortable.
Find a Deeper Connection
Sex will only be allowed once your doctor lifts the pelvic rest precaution. So until that happens, sex is off-limits. This includes oral sex, masturbation, and (usually) even orgasms. This may be a challenging time especially if you and your partner have an active sex life.
This would be the perfect time to try to connect in different ways and bond on a more emotional level. You might want to plan for your future together and explore each other's hopes and dreams for your family. You can use this time to talk to each other and share your thoughts and feelings.
Explore Other Intimate Activities
Take on the new challenge of being intimate without having sex. You can try holding hands and cuddling, giving each other massages, upping the amount of hugs and random touching.
You can also take this time to focus on other actitivies that you enjoy. You could play a game or watch a movie. Try reminiscing over some old photos, or make a scrapbook to prepare for your future together. Remember that intimacy is about being close and is an essential part of any relationship. This closeness will help your relationship grow despite the pause on physical intimacy.
Communicate With Your Provider
Stay in touch with your doctor. If you are on pelvic rest and you experience new symptoms or an injury, call your healthcare provider right away. These include:
- Back pain
- Leak or gush of fluid from the vagina
- Traumatic injuries like a fall or car accident
- Vaginal bleeding
If you forget the precaution and have sex, it's okay. Just give your provider a call and they will direct you on what to do. You may need to come in for a quick checkup, or they may have you monitor yourself from home. The important thing is to keep them in the loop.
Lastly, remember that while pelvic rest may be somewhat inconvenient, your healthcare provider has prescribed it for a good reason. Following their recommendations will not only help you maintain a healthy pregnancy but help you deliver a healthy baby as well.