Bed rest during pregnancy
Pregnancy during your grandmother's generation saw women who were carrying multiple babies ordered to bed rest from about the 30th week of pregnancy. This practice was to help prevent premature births and take steps to improve the health of both the mother and her babies.
More recently, research into this practice has questioned the benefits of routine bed rest, with concerns that the disruptive impact this has on the lives of women and their families considered potentially stressful. Costs of hospital-based health care are also prohibitive. To date, there is no firm evidence to show that bed rest for women with otherwise uncomplicated pregnancies offers any health benefits.
When does bed rest help during pregnancy?
- Bed rest may be recommended in cases where there is bleeding during early pregnancy. This may help prevent miscarriage but only necessary for a set period, until the mother is through the ‘danger’ period.
- Placenta praevia occurs when the placenta implants itself in the lower part or on the side of the uterus, rather than the top part, and comes with the risk of getting in the way of the baby’s passage at birth. Although the cause is unknown, it is more common in women who have had several children. Symptoms include bleeding after the 20th week of pregnancy and haemorrhage in the last two months of pregnancy. Placenta praevia can be diagnosed by ultrasound and with the proper treatment - including bed rest - the risks can be minimised.
- Pre-eclamptic toxaemia, which occurs only in pregnancy, is another pregnancy problem for some women. An increase in blood pressure and the appearance of protein in the urine are two important signs that toxaemia is developing. Other signs include oedema (swelling) - usually of the face and hands, as well as headaches and abdominal pains. Because toxaemia can cause problems with the placenta - the vital connection between mother and baby - it can create risks for the developing baby and needs to be treated. It can also cause problems for the mother, and if left unattended can lead to convulsions that can lead to more serious complications, such as, in very rare cases, stroke. The only real 'cure' is for the baby to be born but in the early stages of pregnancy, simple measures such as bed rest may help minimise the risks and control the situation. Your doctor will advise you what is best for you and your baby.
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This article was written by Claire Halliday for Kidspot. Sources include the Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne and State Government Of Victoria