Is Bed Rest Best?

Image via Torsten Mangner


Although I have but one impossibly delicious son, I’ve been pregnant three times.  I experienced heavy bleeding multiple times throughout each, often landing me in the emergency room absolutely positive my hard-fought pregnancies were coming to a tragic end.  I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma in my first pregnancy, and was labeled with an undetermined cause of bleeding in my most recent one.  I bled in the first trimester.  And in the third.

I’d undergone a LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) to remove abnormal tissue from my cervix several years prior to getting pregnant, and one of my greatest fears revolved around being one of the rare cases of women who would experience a retraction in cervical competency and not be capable of carrying a baby to term.

That paranoia, sprinkled with the emotional doubt of a “former” infertile turned bleeding pregnant woman, created a perfect storm of pregnancy fear I was never able to swallow.

After coming to grips with the reality that bleeding didn’t necessarily equal a miscarriage, I prayed my doctors would place me on strict bed rest.  No, I didn’t wish to be imprisoned, but I wanted a solution- something to make me feel I was doing everything possible to protect my pregnancy.  I’d have done anything to keep my baby inside of me, and jarring my seemingly delicate womb felt dangerous.  Lying flat on my back for 100 years seemed a small price to pay to deliver the healthy baby I’d always hoped for.

Despite my wishes, neither the highly successful Reproductive Endocrinologist who helped get me pregnant nor the highly respected OB who was helping me stay that way recommended bed rest of any sort.

“But my weak cervix?  My heavy bleeding?  My miscarriage history?!?!”

I’d look at them with pleading eyes, desperate to sacrifice whatever necessary to deliver a healthy baby.  Still, their prescriptions for success never included bed rest.

Lying flat on my back for 100 years seemed a small price to pay to deliver the healthy baby I’d always hoped for.

I was scared of everything – gravity especially – and felt if I walked too hard I might jiggle the baby loose or something.

But with bold skepticism, I followed my doctors’ advice, learning after the fact I should have been a bit more trusting.

Women have been placed on bed rest for centuries as a means to delay the possibility of preterm labor caused by such conditions as cervical incompetencies, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and others.  The effectiveness of this prescription has come into question in recent years as researchers argue whether or not the dangers of restricting a woman’s activities outweigh the debated benefit of bed rest.  Recent studies published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology indicate very minimal (if any) benefit was received from placing high risk obstetrics patients on bed rest.  In fact, an article posted in the Chicago Tribune indicates that restricting a woman’s activities may pose higher risks for pregnancy complications and preterm labor.  A 1994 study done by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology found these same results, yet many healthcare practitioners continue to prescribe patients restricted activity.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that “bed rest, hydration and pelvic rest does not appear to improve the rate of preterm birth and should not be routinely recommended.” According to the Mayo Clinic, putting a woman on strict bed rest can have a great impact on muscles and joints, can increase a woman’s risk for blood clots and decreased bone mass, and also puts the woman at a greater risk of depression.  

So while you may find yourself wanting to cling to the bubble of your bed during your high risk pregnancy like I did, it is important to discuss the risks versus benefits with your healthcare provider.  You may discover you are doing better for yourself (and your baby) by continuing your activities as normal.  

Were you prescribed bed rest during your pregnancy? 

What do you think?

Is Bed Rest Best?

Jennifer Bruno is a credentialed trainer by day and a freelance writer and aspiring photographer by night. Raised in rural Kansas, Jen moved to sunny Florida after college where she met her husband, who married her despite hearing her sing Dixie Chicks karaoke. Shortly after saying “I do”, they moved to New York City to fulfill their dream of living amongst the bright lights and skyscrapers. They currently share their cramped apartment with two modelesque miniature dachshunds named Millie an ... More

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1 comment

  1. EbyMom says:

    I wasn’t but whatever works best for the mother and baby. As an expectant mother put to bed rest, depression should be far from your mind cos you are trying to save lives (yours and baby’s). Know that it is just for the best and it is not a permanent condition.goodluck.


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