If you're worried about pregnancy complications, you might consider asking the doctor for bed rest. However, it's important to make sure you understand what bed rest involves instead of assuming this is the best treatment for your situation.
Why Is Bed Rest Needed?
Bed rest is used to treat a variety of pregnancy complications. The most common reasons for bed rest are when a woman is pregnant with multiples, has a history of pregnancy loss, or is determined to be at risk for premature labor. Other conditions that may be treated by bed rest include gestational diabetes, vaginal bleeding, poor fetal development, preeclampsia, incompetent cervix, cervical effacement, placental abruption, or placenta previa.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Bed Rest
Bed rest works by reducing the stress on a woman's vital organs and improving blood flow to send more nutrients to the fetus. If premature labor is a concern, bed rest is useful because it takes pressure off the cervix and can stop the uterus from contracting. When done properly, the bed rest can help:
- Stabilize a woman's condition
- Avoid a long hospital stay
- Reduce the odds of a difficult labor
- Reduce the chance that the baby will need to be in the NICU after being born
Bed rest is not the answer in every situation, however. If you're considering asking the doctor for bed rest, you may think that being confined to your bed sounds like a nice vacation. Unfortunately, the novelty of bed rest doesn't last forever. Bed rest can bring on a number of concerns with both your mental and physical health.
Some of the potential drawbacks of bed rest during pregnancy include:
- Bone loss
- Loss of muscle function
- Boredom and irritability
- Nasal congestion
- Acid reflux
- Weight loss by mother and lower fetal weight for baby
- Relationship conflicts with spouse and other children
- Financial difficulties if unable to telecommute or obtain time off of work
Asking the Doctor for Bed Rest
Doctors often differ dramatically in their approach to bed rest. Some doctors will prescribe bed rest as a precaution because it's affordable and seems harmless. However, others will want to try other ways to manage symptoms before dealing with the possible complications that bed rest can create. For example, if you have a history of depression and are experiencing only minor pregnancy complications, your doctor may be concerned that the risk to your mental health outweighs the potential benefits of bed rest.
Even if your doctor doesn't think that complete bed rest is necessary, however, he may still recommend that you take it easy during your pregnancy. Any of the following can be beneficial for dealing with pregnancy complications:
- A break from exercising
- No sexual intercourse
- Cutting back on household chores that involve standing or lifting
- Lying down for a few hours per day
- Reducing your work hours or taking early maternity leave
The precautions mentioned above are often tried before bed rest is required, simply because they are less disruptive to your daily routine. If you are having a difficult pregnancy, discuss your symptoms with your doctor and ask if a reduction in your daily activities could help you feel better. Asking the doctor for bed rest is fine, but working with your doctor to determine the most appropriate way to handle your specific pregnancy concerns will help ensure that both you and your baby remain healthy.