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Bed Rest in Pregnancy May be Harmful

young pregnant woman holding belly while sleeping
Photograph by Getty Images

It's a given that if you're at risk for premature birth, bed rest is the way to go—right?

Not necessarily, says a new study in Obstetrics & Gynecology. In the research, women with short cervixes (which increases chances of premature labor) were actually more than twice as likely to deliver before week 37 when their work, non-work or sexual activities were restricted. The facts fly in the face of conventional wisdom "Way back when, people would have problems in pregnancy and we would have no interventions available, so we just told them to rest," Dr. Nathan Fox, an OB/GYN at Mount Sinai in New York, told Reuters.

The Northwestern University doctors who performed the study still aren't sure why restricted activity increases the risk of premature birth, but one guess is that being bedridden produces extra stress and anxiety. "The point is, even if we didn't imagine that there was any increased risk, we're still incredibly far from showing any decrease in risk," said study author Dr. William Grobman. Aside from the new findings that link it with premature delivery, strict bed rest also has potential side effects of bone loss, blood clots and loss of conditioning.

Conclusion: If you're prescribed bed rest, ask why. And don't stop asking until you have current research or facts to support the recommendation.

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