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What does a pelvic rest include?

A pelvic rest is a period of time when a person avoids putting anything in the vagina or having sex. Pelvic rest is commonly recommended after certain medical procedures or during pregnancy. The purpose of pelvic rest is to limit movement and promote healing. Here is an overview of what a pelvic rest typically includes.

Avoiding Sexual Activity

The main component of pelvic rest is avoiding sexual activity that involves vaginal penetration or stimulation. This means:

  • No vaginal intercourse
  • No oral sex
  • No anal sex
  • No manual stimulation of the vagina or clitoris

Some doctors may allow gentle stimulation of the clitoris. However, penetration and vigorous stimulation should be avoided. Partners can still engage in physical intimacy through kissing, cuddling, massage, etc. But sexual activity that could disrupt vaginal healing should be off limits.

Not Inserting Anything in the Vagina

In addition to avoiding sexual activity, a pelvic rest means not putting anything inside the vagina. This includes:

  • Tampons
  • Menstrual cups
  • Vibrators or sex toys
  • Douches
  • Fingers

The vagina needs time to recover without being disturbed. So nothing should be inserted, even briefly. Instead, pads should be used for menstruation. Vaginal medications may be allowed, but they require specific instructions from a doctor.

Limiting Physical Activity

Vigorous physical activity can also disrupt vaginal healing after certain procedures. Doctors often recommend limiting exercise and movement during a pelvic rest. Recommendations may include:

  • No heavy lifting over 15-20 pounds
  • No high-impact exercise like jogging or aerobics
  • No sustained squatting or repeated stair climbing
  • No abdominal exercises or core work
  • No swimming or baths

Light activity like walking, stretching, and low-impact yoga may be permitted. But patients should check with their doctor about any exercise restrictions.

Duration of Pelvic Rest

How long someone needs to follow pelvic rest depends on why it was recommended. Here are typical pelvic rest periods:

Reason for Pelvic Rest Typical Duration
After gynecological surgery (hysterectomy, cone biopsy, LEEP, etc) 4-6 weeks
After miscarriage or abortion 2 weeks
During IVF treatment cycle 2 weeks
Threatened preterm labor Duration of pregnancy or until risk resolves
Placenta previa Duration of pregnancy or until placenta moves
Cervical insufficiency Duration of pregnancy

In most cases, pelvic rest lasts from 2-6 weeks. But for conditions like placenta previa or cervical insufficiency, it may be needed for the entire pregnancy. Always follow the specific timeline given by your doctor.

Why Pelvic Rest is Needed

Pelvic rest supports healing and recovery in situations including:

After Gynecological Procedures

Pelvic surgery like hysterectomy requires 4-6 weeks of pelvic rest for the incisions and internal tissues to fully heal. Sexual activity or using tampons too soon could disrupt the healing process.

To Prevent Miscarriage

After a miscarriage or abortion, the cervix needs time to close and the uterus needs to recover. Pelvic rest reduces the risk of infection or additional bleeding/tissue passing.

During IVF Treatment

Pelvic rest is often advised during the two week wait after embryo transfer in IVF cycles. This minimizes uterine contractions that could impact embryo implantation.

For Pregnancy Complications

Issues like threatened preterm labor, placenta previa, or cervical insufficiency may require pelvic rest to reduce chances of preterm birth. Limiting activity and penetration helps keep the condition stable.

Is Pelvic Rest Proven Effective?

Research on the benefits of pelvic rest is limited. But there are some studies showing potential advantages:

  • A 2018 study found pelvic rest after gynecological surgery reduced vaginal bleeding and pain.
  • One study showed pelvic rest may lower odds of preterm birth in women with shortened cervix.
  • Some research indicates bed rest along with pelvic rest can prevent preterm birth in certain cases.
  • Small studies show pelvic rest may improve IVF success rates when embryos are transferred.

While current evidence is limited, pelvic rest is a low-risk recommendation with potential upsides. Patients should follow their doctor’s advice regarding rest periods.

Challenges of Pelvic Rest

Despite its benefits, pelvic rest also comes with challenges:

  • Disrupting intimacy – Not being able to have sex can negatively impact couples’ connections and relationships. Other forms of intimacy should be prioritized.
  • Preventing exercise – Avoiding strenuous activity can be frustrating and lead to weight gain or loss of conditioning.
  • Changing menstruation habits – Using pads instead of tampons can be uncomfortable during menstruation. Pelvic rest often means no baths, as well.
  • Causing emotional effects – Pelvic rest may result in sadness, irritability, or depression from lifestyle changes and hormone shifts after procedures like surgery.

Coping with these challenges involves good communication with partners, taking time to process emotions, following doctor’s orders, and focusing on the end goal of healing. Support from loved ones also helps significantly.

How to Do a Pelvic Rest Successfully

Tips for following pelvic rest properly:

  • Get specific guidelines from your doctor on what activities are allowed and how long rest should last.
  • Communicate with your partner so they understand why intimacy will be on hold.
  • Make a plan for maintaining your relationship without sex, like scheduling dates, massages, or romantic gestures.
  • Find modified ways to stay active that don’t strain your pelvic area, like prenatal yoga or short walks.
  • Use pads instead of tampons during your period.
  • Take sitz baths for comfort if allowed.
  • Explore ways to manage difficult emotions like journaling, support groups, or therapy.
  • Find pleasurable activities that don’t involve vaginal penetration like reading, bubble baths, movies.
  • Focus on the reason for pelvic rest and the health benefits for your recovery.

When to Get Medical Care

During pelvic rest, contact your doctor right away if you experience:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding that soaks a pad an hour
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Severe pelvic pain
  • Contractions or onset of labor before 37 weeks (during pregnancy)

These may be signs of complications requiring medical care, like infection, tear in incision, or preterm labor.


Pelvic rest involves avoiding sexual activity, inserting anything into the vagina, and limiting physical activity during recovery from procedures or pregnancy complications. Typical duration is 2-6 weeks. While challenging, pelvic rest supports healing. Communicate with your doctor and partner to make the process more manageable. With patience and care, pelvic rest can positively impact your health.