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Background:Bed rest at home or in the hospital is a commonly prescribed treatment for women experiencing complications of pregnancy. This focused ethnographic study examined bed rest from the high-risk pregnant woman's perspective and compared perceptions of women cared for in the home with those in hospital.Methods:A convenience sample of 24 pregnant women who had been on bed rest for at least seven days was recruited from the antepartum unit of a tertiary care hospital and from an antepartum home care program in western Canada. Data were collected in 1994 through interviews and participant diaries. Content analysis was used to identify themes.Results:Bed rest had a significant emotional and social impact on pregnant women and their families in both settings. Overall, bed rest in hospital seemed to be associated with more sources of stress than at home. In hospital, women had to cope with separation from home and family, lack of privacy, hospital discomforts, and incompatible roommates, whereas women at home struggled with role reversal and the temptation to do more activity than was recommended. Stressors not unique to but exacerbated by hospitalization included concerns about the children, a sense of missing out, a sense of confinement and being a prisoner, boredom, feelings of depression and loneliness, and negative impact on the relationship with their partner.Conclusion:Study findings raise questions about the appropriateness of routine prescription of bed rest. Health care professionals should propose and develop home care programs as an alternative to antepartum hospitalization. (BIRTH 25:4 December 1998)