The bedrest debate continues as more and more studies are advocating treatment of the causes of bedrest in lieu of activity restriction. However, there are those that are convinced that bedrest is an effective treatment for preterm labor and prolongs pregnancy. Let’s take a look at the evidence.
For over 25 years, Judith Maloni, RN, PhD researched bedrest and found that the practice has no apparent benefit and has been shown to be harmful to pregnant women. Her publication, “AntepartumBed Rest for Pregnancy Complications: Efficacy and Safety for Preventing Preterm Birth”(1), Maloni denounced the bedrest prescription because there was no evidence to support the practice.
In 2007. NASA released an article which showed that female astronauts in space lost bone mass and muscle mass and strength in as little as 2 weeks of inactivity, and the effects were even more pronounced at 60 days.(2) They recommended that if women do have to be on limited activity for an extended period of time, they should engage in a modified exercise program to maintain bone and muscle integrity.
The World Health Organization and Amnesty International have both denounced the bed rest prescription and have had sharp criticism of the United States-which boasts the highest costs of maternity care than any other country in the world, yet has some of the highest rates of complications, bed rest, interventions, cesarean sections and maternal and infant morbidity and mortality-to rethink their maternity care practices and to bring their maternity statistics in line with the rest of the world.
In 2013, physicians in the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began questioning the practice of prescribed bedrest and Christina McCall, MD (3) and Joseph Biggio, Jr., MD (4) both called on their ACOG colleagues to stop the practice of bedrest citing the harm that is poses to pregnant women.
However, bedrest remains a mainstay in obstetrical practice. Here in Austin, the 2 major hospital systems each have large antepartum units which cater to women experiencing pregnancy complications. My colleague Angela Davids, founder of Keepemcookin.com, recently blogged about an article by Drs. Christine Piette Durrance and Melanie Guldi (5) in which the authors concluded after an extensive review of PRAMS (Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System) data of some 200,000 women, that limited inactivity does reduce preterm birth before 33 weeks by 7.7% and low birth weight infants (weighing less that 1500 grams) by 15.4%.
So what are mamas to think? Should they abandon bedrest? Remain on bedrest? Is there a way to not have to go on bedrest, to not encounter the complications that lead to the bedrest prescription?
At this juncture if you are a mama on bedrest, I WOULD NOT recommend abandoning the care plan that your provider has put into place for you. If you have questions about whether or not bedrest is necessary in your case, speak with your provider and voice your concerns. I am a firm believer that if you have hired (chosen) a provider for services, then you should follow their directions. Now if you are having reservations about being on bed rest, its efficacy and whether or not it is doing harm to you, you must have a candid conversation with your OB and get your questions answered so that you can make an informed decision.
I myself am a proponent of mamas getting off bedrest. I believe the way to do it is to help women to be in the best shape BEFORE they ever think about getting pregnant so that when they are pregnant they are strong and healthy. Many of you reading this may be saying, “Well fat lot of good that does me now!” I sense your frustration. There is nothing we mamas on bedrest do better than second guess ourselves! But what you did in the past (no matter how recent) is of no consequence. As Dr. Maya Angelou eloquently said, “When you know better, you do better.” You know better right now, so begin taking exquisite care of yourself right now! As much as possible,
- Eat healthy, nutrient dense foods.
- Drink lots of water (1/2 your current body weight but in ounces).
- Rest (I know that sounds ridiculous, but many mamas on bedrest are so stressed out they don’t sleep well and don’t rest. Your body is not only maintaining you, it is also growing another fully complete human being. That most certainly deserves a nap!
- Do stretches t keep your muscles supple and limber. (BedrestFitness!)
- Keep your spirits up
I don’t know what is to become of bedrest and the bedrest prescription. I do know for the nearly 1 million women who will experience bedrest, you have to take care of yourself. If you are in the Austin, TX area, look me up! I always enjoy mixing with mamas and would be happy to serve you.
How are you surviving bedrest? Share your tips and comments section below.
Judith Maloni, Ph.D. AntepartumBed Rest for Pregnancy Complications: Efficacy and Safety for Preventing Preterm Birth (Biological Research for Nursing 12(2) 106-124)
Mark Ransford. NASA-Funded Study finds Exercise Could Help Women on Bedrest November 15, 2007
Christina McCall, MD, “Therapeutic” Bed Rest in Pregnancy, Unethical and Unsupported by Data”, vol 121, No.6 June 2013, 1305-1308
Joseph Biggio, Jr., MD.“Bed Rest in Pregnancy, Time to Put the Issue to Rest!” vol 121 No. 6, June 2013, 1158-1160
Christine Piette Durrance and Melanie Guldi. Maternal Bedrest and Infant Health.
I am very pleased to present to you the interview that I had with Dr. Anthony Scisione, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist.
Anthony Sciscione, D.O., serves as director of the Delaware Center for Maternal & Fetal Medicine and program director of the Christiana Care OB/GYN Residency Program. He is also Director of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine and the OB-Gyn Residency Program at Christiana Care Health System, the Director of the Delaware Center for Maternal & Fetal Medicine and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Sciscione is widely published and is a principle and co-investigator on a number of national clinical studies in Maternal-Fetal medicine as well as a reviewer for articles in maternal-fetal medicine/health and obstetrics and gynecology.
Dr. Sciscione graciously agreed review the role of progesterone in the treatment of preterm labor as well as in the treatment of incompetent cervix. He gives a great overview, shares what is currently going on in the research arena and answers questions submitted by Mamas on Bedrest.
Please enjoy this very informative podcast and share your comments, suggestions and questions about progesterone therapy in the comments section below.
I received the following inquiry from a Mama on Bedrest:
“Hi. I’m 24 weeks along and on my last prenatal visit, my OB noted that my cervix was short. After ultrasound evaluation, he determined that a cerclage was needed. I had the cerclage placed, but my OB has not put me on bed rest. I asked if I should limit my activity and he said only if I felt contractions or otherwise uncomfortable.
Most other women that I know who have been in this situation were prescribed bed rest. I’m really nervous that something will go wrong and I will lose my baby. What should I do?”
This is an excellent question!! First and foremost, a Mama should always listen to and follow her health care provider’s recommendations. I say this because you have “contracted” with this person to care for you and your unborn child. It only makes sense that you follow their recommendations. Now, if you find that you disagree with your health care provider on many or at least one major decision, I suggest you first talk with your health care provider and ask why they have chosen the treatment plan that they are implementing. Make sure that you understand the ENTIRE rationale behind their decision, and that you understand and are comfortable with the treatment plan going forward, including potential adverse outcomes.
If you are still uncomfortable after speaking candidly with your health care provider, I suggest getting a second opinion. Sometimes having another assessment of your situation will put your concerns to rest. Also, sometimes another person can explain things differently so that they make more sense to you and ease your mind.
Finally, if you have spoken with your health care provider and not gotten the answers that satisfy you, and you have consulted with another provider and gotten a second opinion-regardless of whether they agree or disagree with your original health care provider, you may want/need to change providers. Now I don’t say this lightly. Changing providers mid-pregnancy is most certainly not optimum, however, if you are really feeling uncomfortable with your current provider, it is in your best interest (and that of your baby’s) to work with a provider in whom you implicitly trust, with whom you feel completely comfortable and who will consult with you every step of the way making sure that you are included in treatment decisions, that you understand all treatment decisions and with whom you can speak to freely and as often as you need. If you don’t feel completely comfortable with your health care provider and feel anxious and uncomfortable with his/her treatment plan, then you may need to consider a change. But again, I highly suggest you do all that you can to work with this person who already knows you and your case.
Now, if it isn’t a conflict with your provider and you are just concerned that you should be on bed rest and they haven’t prescribed it, trust your health care provider as they are doing you a HUGE service not placing you on bed rest if it isn’t medically indicated. In our e-book, “From Mamas to Mamas:The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest” I spent an entire chapter discussing how bed rest is not an evidence-based treatment and that many, many obstetricians, maternal-fetal medicine specialists and many of the medical societies caring for pregnant women and their babies are urging providers NOT to prescribe bed rest, but to instead treat the pregnancy complication without the activity restriction. It sounds like this obstetrician is doing just that. What our mama should now do is at her next prenatal visit, ask her health care provider to explain to her EXACTLY why s/he did not prescribe bed rest, what s/he expects to happen with cerclage alone, what other treatments they will implement if the cervix continues to shorten to prevent preterm birth and what she can do to improve her pregnancy outcomes. In this way, Mama will have all the information she needs to take exquisite care of herself and her baby-and hopefully have all her fears and anxieties addressed and “laid to rest.”
What was your response to being put on bed rest or not being prescribed bed rest? Share your experience below in our comments section.
If you want to learn more about Bedrest not being an evidence based treatment for the prevention of preterm labor and preterm birth, read all about it in our e-book, “From Mamas to Mamas: The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest” available for immediate download from Amazon.com.