Many times during pregnancy, a prenatal doctor orders bed rest. There are many benefits to bed rest and there are several reasons bed rest may be recommended. While many doctors disagree on which conditions require bed rest, each case should be treated on its own merits.
The following are four of the most common reasons doctors order bed rest for pregnant woman:
Prevention of Preterm Labor
Preterm labor is a serious condition that affects many women. While the cause of preterm labor cannot always be determined, it is defined as labor that begins before 37 weeks of gestation. Babies born before this time are not normally capable of surviving outside of the womb on their own, as much of a baby’s organ development happens within the last month of pregnancy. Consequently, babies born prematurely are at risk for respiratory problems and respiratory infections.
The signs of preterm labor include:
Six or more contractions within a hour, spaced regularly apart
Dull backache for more than one hour
Increased pelvic pressure
An increase or change in vaginal discharge
A feeling as though your baby is trying to push downward
If you have any of these signs and symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Many times bed rest will help relieve these symptoms and can actually slow down or prevent preterm labor.
An incompetent cervix occurs when the cervix is not strong enough to hold the weight of the baby as it grows. If left untreated, there is a chance the baby may be lost during the second trimester.
With an incompetent cervix, the cervix begins to thin and widen prematurely. The condition is an anatomical abnormality. The cervix normally remains closed during pregnancy until labor starts. However, in the case of incompetent cervix, the cervix begins to open from the pressure of the growing baby. The cervix will thin and start to open without any labor contractions, and the membranes that surround the fetus begin to bulge down through the opening in the cervix. These membranes eventually break and the baby is born early.
There are a few treatment options for an incompetent cervix. Bed rest is recommended most often; however, if there is a past history of a loss, your physician may recommend a cerclage. This is a minor procedure in which a stitch is placed in the cervix to keep it from opening. Bed rest is usually recommended after this procedure as well.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure during pregnancy can cause many different problems. Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are two of the most common complications from high blood pressure during pregnancy. These two conditions can affect the amount of blood that reaches the unborn baby. This means your baby receives less food and oxygen, which can result in lower birth weights. Bed rest can help to lower your blood pressure by reducing the amount of physical stress your body is under.
If a woman is expecting more than one baby, there’s generally a consensus that bed rest should be required past the fifth or six month, since the weight of the babies can cause pressure on the cervix and it’s very easy for an expectant mother of multiple babies to go into premature labor. Since multiple births usually produced smaller babies, it is essential that the pregnancy last as long as possible to give the babies the best chance of survival.
While bed rest is often out of the question for some women, such as single mothers or caregivers, the choice to not follow your doctor’s orders can sometimes have disastrous results. Speak with your doctor about any concerns you have and try your best to abide by your doctor’s advice if you’re ordered to bed rest during your pregnancy.