Bed Rest During Pregnancy | Complications and Benefits
When Bed Rest is Required
Doctors will generally recommend bed rest if certain complications arise, such as if contractions begin before 37 weeks, if the cervix is shortened or prematurely dilated, if blood pressure is high, or there is a risk of miscarriage. Bed rest may also be recommended in cases of placenta previa, poor fetal growth, and premature rupture of water membranes. Typically, women who are admitted to hospital for any kind of complication during pregnancy must have a period of bed rest. The duration will depend on the type and severity of the complications.
Reasons for bed rest
Each year in the United States, around 20% of all pregnant women are placed on bed rest at some point during pregnancy. The most common reasons for bed rest are preterm labor and premature rupture of water membranes.
The origin of bed rest
The recommendation of bed rest during pregnancy dates back to the time of Hippocrates. But bed rest first became a popular recommendation in the late 1900s following a lecture by Dr John Hilton, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons. Dr Hilton told the students that many medical problems could be eliminated by bed rest. Although the doctor’s recommendation was mainly for orthopedic problems, bed rest was prescribed without question, for multiple conditions for over a century.
The benefits of bed
Bed rest has been a routine part of pregnancy care for several hundred years. In the past, the due date was referred to as the beginning of the period of confinement, which meant that a mother-to-be would be confined to bed until the baby was born. The purported benefits of bed rest include:
Increasing blood flow to the placenta
Lowering blood pressure
Reducing complications that may be caused by lifting or other activities
Is there a negative side to bed rest?
Often, bed rest can have more disadvantages than benefits. These include:
Increased risk of blood clots
Muscle and bone loss
Increased maternal anxiety
Problems with circulation
Negative emotional and social effects on the mother and family
Lost income from missed work
Best rest today
These days, fewer and fewer doctors are recommending bed rest unless complications are severe. This is mainly because resting does not reduce the risk of premature birth and lying in bed for extended periods can have negative effects on the circulatory system. Women who are prescribed best rest can find interesting ways to pass the time such as reading, knitting, or watching movies.