The Truth About Bed Rest

Side effects of bed rest may outweigh the benefits, experts say.


While many doctors and women feel that bed rest can't do any harm and might do some good during certain high-risk pregnancies, a recent review of research suggests otherwise. Often-overlooked side effects include muscle atrophy, cardiovascular deconditioning, potential bone loss and depression, says study author Judith A. Maloni, Ph.D., R.N., a professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

What's more, high-quality studies of women at risk for preterm birth (including women carrying twins) have consistently found no differences between mothers who were prescribed bed rest and those who were not. It's also not helpful in preventing miscarriage in women with vaginal bleeding. Nonetheless, up to 1 million pregnant women are prescribed bed rest each year. If you are among them, Maloni offers these tips:

GET A SECOND OPINION: Seek advice from a maternal-fetal specialist (aka perinatologist). These experts are often found at university-based medical centers.

CONSIDER PHYSICAL THERAPY AFTERWARD: If you notice muscle weakness or fatigue, you'll likely need a rehab plan. Request a physical therapy assessment while you're still in the hospital after delivering.

LINE UP POSTPARTUM SUPPORT: Your recovery may be slower than other new moms'. Help with baby care, household chores and meals is often much needed.

Bed rest can be especially difficult for busy women. But these moms-to-be are highly motivated, obviously, because their biggest concern is their unborn children.

Researchers do say that there can be an upside to bed rest. And there are safe exercises you can do while on bed rest.