Mamas on Bedrest: The World Is Watching-and Questioning Bedrest

September 8th, 2014

Bedrest is in the news again! This time via Great Britain, in the online  News Report “The Daily Mail”.

Citing research presented at the 2014 Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine annual conference held February 3-8, 2014, The Daily Mail reports,

“Bed rest during pregnancy could harm your baby: ‘Putting your feet up increases risk of blood clots, diabetes, depression and having a smaller newborn,’ warn experts”

This is not news. As seen in our book, “From Mamas to Mamas: The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest”, many physicians, researchers, writers and pundits have questioned the bed rest prescription. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT IT IS EFFECTIVE and THERE IS EVIDENCE BEDREST CAUSES HARM TO MAMAS AND BABIES. As such, there is an increasing demand to stop the practice.

I want to be very clear here. There are instances and situations in which bed rest is ABSOLUTELY the right thing to do. When a woman presents in preterm labor with high blood pressure, spotting or amniotic fluid leaking, in the acute period until she is stable, medical care and yes, bed rest, are indicated. What is being questioned is the extended periods of inactivity-lasting weeks to months. In these cases, when there isn’t any acute medical intervention being done, obstetricians and researchers are questioning placing a woman on bed rest “just in case”.

Co-author of the cited study Anthony Sciscione, of the Delaware Centre for Maternal and Fetal Medicine, said: ‘There is no evidence bed rest improves outcomes.”

But there is evidence that bed rest can be harmful for mamas and babies.  Here are health complications associated with prolonged inactivity as a result of bed rest:

 

Muscle and bone loss. This ‘deconditioning’ can start after only a few days and there is a lack of information on its effect on pregnant women. (See our resources on this!)

Increases the risk of developing blood clots in the legs – and raises the chance that clots will move to the lungs, which can be fatal. Such clots are more common among pregnant women, so limiting physical activity may compound these risks.

Increases a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes. The Society said that being admitted to hospital for problems during pregnancy has been associated with a higher chance of this condition. It pointed to studies which have shown that patients who are put on bed rest when not pregnant tend to develop high blood sugar levels, a key risk factor for diabetes.

Increases the risk of anxiety and depression, perhaps because of the forced inactivity. (Also think lonliness and isolation)

Loss of income due to inability to work and has been linked to having a baby with a lower birth weight.

 

But we all know this and I have written extensively on this subject in this blog. And thankfully folks are listening. I realize that many mamas are attached to the notion that bed rest saved their baby’s life and I am not here to discount that. What I am here to report, and what I am hoping for, is that rather than simply putting a woman on bed rest and with that prescription increasing her risk for other health problems, I (and many others) advocate for finding solutions to the complications that result in the bedrest prescription. It’s exciting to see Pluristem doing stem cell research as a way to cure PreEclampsia. It is encouraging to see the March of Dimes pouring funds into research to investigate and treat preterm labor and preterm births. And who knows? Perhaps the March of Dimes Research is onto something noting that low maternal blood levels of vitamin D are associated with preterm labor and preterm birth.

Do not be dismayed, Mamas. There is research going on and more and more mama and babies are surviving pregnancy complications every day. While bed rest is still a major part of high risk pregnancy treatment here in the United States, it is nice to see that new treatments are on the horizon.  For me, when I was having my children (namely my daughter), I was offered bed rest as a treatment. I most certainly hope that when my now 12 year old daughter is having her children, if she has complications as I did while pregnant with her, there will be more effective, evidences based and non debilitating treatments available for her and her baby than there were for me while I struggled to carry her.

Want to know more about the origins of bed rest, it’s role in obstetrics and what’s on the horizon as treatment for high risk pregnancies? Subscribe to our blog (the little orange button on the upper right hand corner of this webpage) and also check out our extensive archives. There is a plethora of information for mamas and those who love and are caring for them in our post. For mamas wanting more tips on how to survive bed rest, Download our ebook guide, “From Mamas to Mamas: The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest” Available exclusively on Amazon.com.

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