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Is bed rest really the best for high risk pregnancies?

Women with high risk pregnancies may think bed rest is going to be a given. Not wanting to cause any more harm, their doctor is simply going to order them off of their feet. This means no working and an activity restriction. The idea is the mom-to-be needs to be staying in bed and getting plenty of rest.

Doctors have been ordering bed rest for a number of medical illnesses dating back to the time the Classical period of Hippocrates. However, it was not until the 19th century when people started to question the benefits of bed rest and if there were actually negative consequences to bed rest.

Recently, two articles came out focusing on the downsides to recommending bed rest for high risk pregnancies.

One article focused on a study with women having high risk pregnancies due to a shortened cervix. According to the study, those who were put on bed rest were 2.5 times more likely to end up going into labor before 34 weeks.

The second article focuses on the fact there has not been any data to show the benefits of bed rest. Due to this, the article pushes for recommending those practices that have been proven to show benefits.

Dr. Christian S. Pope, who specializes in gynecology and obstetrics, also points to some of the negatives associated with bed rest, including muscle wasting, bone loss, blood clots and a decrease to the immune system. In addition to these physical negatives, bed rest also has an emotional and social impact on a pregnant woman and her family and a financial impact as she is no longer working.

For all of these reasons, the idea is for doctors to really think about why they are recommending bed rest and to focus on more evidence-based practices for better care of patients.

In the end, the take home message is that doctors have a duty to provide the best care possible to their pregnant patients. If it is believed a birth injury -- or injury to the mother -- was caused by pregnancy malpractice, there may be grounds to file a lawsuit.

Source: SouthCoast Today, "Christian Pope, MD.:Time to give bed rest a break," Christian Pope, July 4, 2013

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