Bed Rest During Pregnancy
Most women are able to stay active throughout pregnancy, but each year, nearly 20% of pregnant women are prescribed bed rest for at least some part of their pregnancy. Bed rest during pregnancy can range from spending most of the day lying or sitting on the couch to staying in a hospital bed closely monitored by hospital staff. Although the degree of bed rest and reasons for bed rest in pregnancy differ, the goals are essentially the same: to help you have a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Reasons for Bed Rest
Bed rest isn't a proven remedy for preventing pregnancy complications or preterm birth. Some doctors say it does more harm than good. It may raise a woman's risk of developing blood clots, put her under emotional stress, and in some cases hurt the family finances if she loses her job. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says bed rest “should not be routinely recommended.”
But there are several reasons why your doctor might want you to be on bed rest. For example, your doctor may recommend bed rest if you experience early contractions, which could be a sign of preterm labor, or if you have had previous pregnancies that ended in miscarriage, still birth, or premature birth. If you are expecting multiples -- two or more babies -- your pregnancy may be considered high risk, and your doctor will monitor you closely. If you develop any problems, your doctor might place you on bed rest.
Here are some other reasons your doctor may advise bed rest:
- Preeclampsia. A potentially dangerous condition characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling particularly in the legs and face. Preeclampsia occurs in up to 8% of pregnancies, usually during the second half of pregnancy.
- Vaginal bleeding. A problem with several possible causes, including placenta previa, a complication in which the placenta grows in the lowest part of the uterus and covers all or part of the opening to the cervix; or placental abruption, a complication in which the placenta separates from the uterus before the baby is ready to be born.
- Incompetent cervix. A weak cervix that may open prematurely.
- Cervical effacement. Softening or thinning of the cervix, which is one of the first signs of labor (pre-term or term).
- Poor fetal growth.
- After a procedure that indicates a medical complication.
Because bed rest is no longer recommended for most of these problems, ask your doctor if it’s really necessary.
What to Expect When You're on Bed Rest
Just as pregnancy is different for each woman, so is the experience of bed rest. Women who've had problems with previous pregnancies know it's likely they'll need to go on bed rest at some point; for others, a prescription for bed rest comes as a surprise. Some women are prescribed bed rest later in their pregnancies; others must spend their entire pregnancies resting in bed.