Pregnancy And Bed Rest

Pregnancy and Bed Rest


Prematurity is the birth of baby before the end of 37 weeks of pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, more than 400,000 premature infants are born each year. These babies are often very small (usually weighing less than 5+ pounds) and may be born with serious problems. They often can't breathe on their own and need a ventilator until their lungs develop. They may have difficulty feeding because sucking and swallowing reflexes haven't developed. In many cases, the babies spend days or weeks in neonatal intensive care units until their tiny bodies mature.

Bed Rest to Prevent Prematurity

Researchers estimate nearly 20 percent of pregnant women are prescribed bed rest for some part of their pregnancy. For women who are at high risk for preterm birth or pregnancy loss, doctors believe staying in bed may prevent, delay, or stop premature contractions. The amount of bed rest varies according to the patient's condition. Some women simply stay in bed for a few extra hours a day while others are restricted to total bed rest for 24 hours a day.

For pregnant women, bed rest can be a mixed blessing. After a few days of catching up on reading, calling or writing friends, or enjoying the luxury of not having to do household chores, boredom can set in. Eventually, women often find bed rest to be very restricting and stressful. Stopping work can mean a significant loss of income. Women who have older children may need to hire household help, further adding to the economic and psychological burden. Anxiety, depression, and hostility are more common in women needing bed rest compared to other pregnant women.

Bed rest also takes a toll on the body. Without exercise, muscles weaken and atrophy. Long-term bed rest increases the risk for development of blood clots, changes in blood pressure, bone loss, insulin resistance, weight loss, and cardiovascular deconditioning.

Bed rest is controversial and research suggests it isn't necessary for women having an uncomplicated multiple pregnancy (2 or more babies). Experts recommend patients who are prescribed bed rest get a second opinion with a perinatologist (a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine). Women should also talk with their doctors about specific restrictions and ways to reduce the side effects of the treatment.