Bed Rest May Not Be Best for Pregnant Women & Their Babies

woman sleepingIf you're someone who spent a significant amount of time on bed rest during a pregnancy, you may want to stop reading now and save yourself some frustration over time that may have been wasted. That's right, wasted. A new study says that bed rest may not only not help prevent complications like premature birth and miscarriage, but it actually could be potentially harmful.

Say what? For years -- centuries even -- doctors have prescribed bed rest. According to estimates, one in five women is told to limit activity at some point in her pregnancy. Women have given up jobs, had to scramble to find care for older children, and otherwise turned their lives upside down to adhere to the prescribed bed rest. Now we learn it may have all been for naught.


The study, which was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, followed 657 pregnant women who were at high risk for delivering premature babies. Of the 250 who were put on bed rest to lower their risk, nearly 40 percent of them still delivered prematurely. The most shocking part, however, was that was double the number of those who weren't put on bed rest.

Other studies have pointed to complications of bed rest such as an increased risk of blood clots and muscle atrophy. So why risk those things, if it's not dong any good any way? You shouldn't according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who advise against it for the prevention of premature deliveries. More study is need, but for now doctors are being urged to really weigh the justification for prescribing bed rest.

I was on bed rest for less than a week, as doctors attempted to prevent the premature delivery of my son. It didn't work, and he was born at 27 weeks, but I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to be on it for months at a time. So to think of doing it all for nothing is frustrating at best.

Sure every pregnant woman dreams of having someone force her to lie down and relax a bit, but the reality of bed rest is anything but relaxing. It's fraught with all sorts of fear, discomfort, and restlessness. So in many ways this is good news for pregnant women who may be able to avoid it. More importantly, however, it will hopefully lead to other discoveries about how premature deliveries actually can be avoided.

Have you ever been on bed rest for a pregnancy? Does this news surprise you?


Image via Bob Mical/Flickr

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