For decades, doctors have placed some pregnant women on bed rest in hopes of preventing an early delivery. But recently some OB/GYNs and leading medical organizations have come out against this routine practice, citing its ineffectiveness in preventing preterm delivery and its dangers to mothers. Most recently, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine issued a statement against the practice, joining them to the growing movement opposed to bed rest.
The Practice of Bed Rest
Bed rest (or its more modern counterpart, activity restriction) requires women to stay in bed and limit their daily movement to less than one to two hours a day. There are several common reasons why an OB/GYN may place a woman bed rest, including:
- Preterm contractions, premature rupture of membranes
- Short cervix
- Multiple gestation
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia
- Restricted fetal growth
Study after study, however, has found that bed rest is not effective: women on bed rest are just as likely to deliver preterm as women who continue on with their daily activities.
Associated Complications of Bed Rest
But bed rest isn’t just ineffective in preventing preterm delivery; it also presents a host of problems for the mother, including:
- The loss of muscle mass, bone mass, blood plasma volume, and cardiovascular conditioning
- Higher rates of depression and anxiety
- Increased risk for gestational diabetes and life-threatening blood clots
- Babies born at a lower birth weight
Movement Against Bed Rest
Taking into account the lack of effectiveness of bed rest in preventing preterm labor and the additional risks it places on the mother, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s recent statement recommends against the routine use of bed rest for any indication. Their statement follows a 2012 statement by the leading professional gynecological group, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that also recommends against the use of bed rest.
Dr. Sciscione, one of the doctors who helped draft the Society’s statement on bed rest, noted in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer that OB/GYNs may still be prescribing bed rest (even though they know it doesn’t help) because it gives patients peace of mind. If your doctor recommends bed rest during your pregnancy, talk to them about your concern with the associated risks of the practice.
At All About Women, our devoted team of OB/GYNs and midwives strive to prescribe the best treatment for our expecting mothers. We want all our expecting mothers to have satisfying and confident pregnancies, regardless if they are low or high-risk. Contact our Lake City or Gainesville office today if you’re looking for high-quality prenatal care.