Can Bed Rest Prevent a Miscarriage?

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Young pregnant woman on bed rest

Losing a pregnancy is a devastating experience, and many women wonder if bed rest might help ensure the health of future pregnancies. Health care providers have different opinions about whether bed rest can prevent a miscarriage. However, if your doctor or midwife has instructed you to take it easy, it's very important you follow his or her advice.

Are You at Risk?

When they consider prescribing bed rest for expectant mothers, health care providers assess the health of the pregnancy. According to the British Medical Journal, about 20% of pregnant women experience threatened miscarriage. This means that they have vaginal bleeding before 20 weeks of gestation. Those expectant mothers who experience threatened miscarriage have 2.6 times the risk of miscarrying, compared to expectant mothers who experience no bleeding. Your health care provider may recommend bed rest if you have vaginal bleeding.

Bed Rest for Threatened Miscarriage: Two Views

The issue of whether bed rest can prevent a miscarriage is very controversial in the medical and scientific communities. Many scientific studies, such as this one conducted by Cochrane in 2005, indicate that placing a woman on bed rest does not impact the outcome of the pregnancy. However, critics insist that the sample sizes in these studies are still too small to indicate a trend.

Some doctors, like Dr. Jonathan Scher, believe that bed rest during early pregnancy can prevent some miscarriages. In his book, Preventing Miscarriage: The Good News, Scher says that the fatigue many women experience in early pregnancy is their body's way of putting them on bed rest. He believes it's important to listen to these messages from the body.

Miscarriage Due to Genetic Defects

According to the Mayo Clinic, between 15 and 20 percent of pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Most miscarriages have nothing to do with the mother's lifestyle and are simply the result of genetic defects in the embryo. In these cases, the sperm or the egg has a faulty genetic code, or a genetic mutation during development leads to a serious defect. In the case of these genetic defects, Medscape reports that the majority of the medical community now believes that bed rest will not prevent a miscarriage.

Miscarriage Due to Pregnancy Health Conditions

While you can't do anything to prevent a genetic defect from causing a miscarriage, some doctors believe that you may be able to help certain pregnancy health conditions by taking it easy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, these health conditions include the following:

  • High blood pressure: A reclined position and lowered daily stress may help with blood-pressure related conditions like eclampsia and pre-eclampsia.
  • Placenta complications: Lying on your side may increase blood flow to the placenta, possibly reducing miscarriages and premature deliveries due to placental abruption, placenta accreta, and placenta previa.
  • Vaginal bleeding: If you have a history of miscarriage and are experiencing bleeding, lying down may reduce the amount of blood loss.

Should You Go On Bed Rest?

While the medical community is divided about whether bed rest can prevent a miscarriage, it's very important that you follow the instructions of your health care provider. If you are uncomfortable with the decision of your health care provider, consider seeking a second opinion. Never discontinue bed rest without speaking to a doctor. Your doctor or midwife understands your specific medical situation and has your best interest in mind.

Can Bed Rest Prevent a Miscarriage?