By: Shelagh McNally for Uterus1
Each year, about 700,000 pregnant women in the United States are put on bed rest if they have blood spotting, contractions before 37 weeks' gestation, high blood pressure or a history of preterm labor. However, new research indicates that bed rest may actually be harmful.
|Tips for Surviving Bed Rest|
Stick to a schedule
Resist watching too much TV
Start a family tree
Arrange the family photo albums
Catch up on your reading
Address thank-you envelopes
Build up an email and phone list to let people know when the baby arrives
Take up knitting or crocheting
Shop for your baby (or yourself!) on the Internet
Answer letters to friends and family
Start a journal for the baby
“Despite the fact that bed rest is recommended quite often in clinical practice, very few well- designed trials have evaluated its effectiveness," said researcher Shireen Meher, MDBS, division of perinatal and reproductive medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool Women's Hospital NHS.
Meher and her colleagues found a noticeable lack of clinical research. They did find four well-designed studies, but none showed an advantage for bed rest in pregnancies. The researchers were part of the Cochrane Collaborative, an international nonprofit organization that conducts systematic reviews of current medical practices.
Meher also pointed out that in addition to having no obvious benefit, there are potential risks and clear disadvantages to putting pregnant woman on bed rest. These include blood clots and weakened muscles. "Because of these potential negative effects, I think there should be better evidence before bed rest is recommended to women," she says.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists no longer advises bed rest as a way to prevent preterm births because no large-scale double-blind studies have shown that it works – and in fact, it may add to the stress of the pregnancy. Some obstetricians who specialize in high-risk pregnancies worry that fears are exaggerated. “We don’t know what precipitates labor,” said Dr. William Grobman, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Northwestern University. “But low-level activity isn’t it.”
NASA scientists, who used bed rest to simulate weightlessness in space, found that an individual’s entire musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system quickly becomes de-conditioned. This degeneration begins in less than 48 hours, and bed rest can last up to 12 weeks or longer.
“It's only after birth that many bedridden mothers realize the extent of their de-conditioning. For some, even an easy stroll can be a doozy,” says Judith Maloni, a professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University and one of the country's most prolific researchers on the topic of bed rest during pregnancy. “They have to sit on the sidewalk, wheezing and trying to catch their breath. Obviously, even a low-risk pregnancy can be hard on anyone's body, but that's ridiculous."
Regular exercise can help offset some of the effects of bed rest. Safety and caution should be the chief considerations of any exercise program. Lower body exercises are especially crucial to prevent blood clots.
Suggestions for exercise:Avoid abdominal crunches
Condition arms by lifting two pound hand weights
To condition shoulders and arms: attach a thick rubber band to the headboard and do some resistance exercises
Ankle circles in both directions can help circulation
Bend your knees and pull ankles toward the body
Slow swipes using both legs (like you are doing snow angels) will maintain lower body strength. Be sure to have a back support so you don’t use your stomach muscles.