Pelvic rest means avoiding inserting anything into the vagina. It may be prescribed for several conditions during pregnancy, but more research needs to be done on its benefits.

You may have heard the term bed rest during pregnancy, but what about pelvic rest?

There’s no precise definition of pelvic rest, so it’s best to ask your doctor what actions or activities to avoid if they prescribe it. Read on to find out when pelvic rest may be needed and symptoms to watch for during your pregnancy.

Pelvic rest is a term to describe delaying putting anything into the vagina during pregnancy in order to prevent medical complications.

This includes abstaining from having sex, limiting procedures like an obstetrical check for dilation, and possibly restricting any exercises that may strain the pelvic floor. If your doctor recommends pelvic rest, be sure to discuss which specific activities you should avoid.

According to the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, studies have not proven that restricting activity, including pelvic rest, actually works to improve pregnancy outcomes, and may even cause harm. As a result, they advise against pelvic rest in most cases.

There are still some conditions during pregnancy where pelvic rest may be prescribed, though more research is needed into its benefits. Here are some examples.

Full placenta previa

Placenta previa means that your placenta is positioned across the bottom of your cervix instead of on the side of your uterus. It can be a partial previa, meaning only part of the cervix is covered, or the cervix can be completely covered, as in the case of a full placenta previa.

Pregnancy and labor affect the attachment of the placenta, leading to bleeding in cases of placenta previa. As a result, pelvic rest may be recommended, and you’ll need a cesarean delivery.

Bleeding or spotting

Vaginal bleeding during the first two trimesters is often linked to pregnancy loss. You may also experience cramps and lower back pain.

While bed rest does not appear to be effective for preventing pregnancy loss, your doctor may recommend pelvic rest and avoiding strenuous activities if you’re experiencing bleeding.

Cervical complications

Cervical complications can include a shortened cervix or an “incompetent” cervix, which is also sometimes called an insufficient cervix. The condition may lead to a preterm birth.

One of the classic symptoms of cervical insufficiency is cervical dilation without regular contractions or pain. In other words, your cervix opens up like you’re about to give birth without you even realizing it.

Your doctor may prescribe pelvic rest if you have cervical issues, though there’s little research supporting this approach and it may not be recommended. With this condition, it’s important to pay close attention to any signs or symptoms that you may be going into labor.

Being at risk for preterm labor

Studies haven’t proven that having sex can cause labor or that any activity restriction is actually helpful for pregnant women. Some research even found that pelvic rest and other activity restrictions had no effect on preterm birth rates.

Some doctors may still place women who are at high risk of premature birth on pelvic rest, but more research is needed into any benefits of this practice.

Being on pelvic rest doesn’t mean avoiding all physical activity during your pregnancy. Pelvic rest is different than bed rest, which typically means staying in bed except to bathe and use the bathroom.

With pelvic rest, you are usually still able to do all of your normal day-to-day activities. You just want to be careful to avoid straining the pelvic area or having penetrative sex. Talk with your doctor about what sexual activities you may still be able to engage in if you wish to do so.

You can also talk with your doctor about safe exercises you can do to maintain your health throughout your pregnancy.

If you are pregnant and on pelvic rest, it’s important to call a doctor if you:

  • notice fluid or bleeding from your vagina
  • experience premature contractions or back pain
  • have sex
  • have any accident or injury, such as falling or getting into a car accident

If you are placed on pelvic rest during your pregnancy, don’t panic. Most of the time pelvic rest is just a precaution and in some cases, the restriction is temporary.

Your doctor might only recommend pelvic rest for a short time. It’s important to talk with your doctor about what pelvic rest looks like for you as well as how to continue to stay active and healthy during your pregnancy.