Pregnant women who are ordered to be on bed rest are usually told to do so for health reasons. Time spent resting can help the body normalize, lower blood pressure, decrease the chance of premature labor, and improve blood flow. But does being on bed rest have its own set of risks?
According to new research, women who spent more than a week on bed rest were six times as likely to have a higher risk of gestational diabetes. Although gestational diabetes is a temporary condition, it can mean long-term effects for mom and baby.
“Simply because of the nature of bed rest—you’re lying down, you’re inactive for an extended period of time—there is a greater likelihood that you could develop gestational diabetes,” says Patricia Ischiropoulos, MD, OB/GYN at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
But that’s not the only risk that time spent on bed rest presents. It can also mean an increased risk of blood clots, changes in metabolism, bone loss, aches and pains, and weakened strength, which can make it harder to care for a newborn when you’re back on your feet.
Fortunately, although bed rest is still required for some women, the practice typically doesn’t affect women with traditional or low-risk pregnancies.
“Now, knowing what we know about how to have a healthy pregnancy, bed rest is primarily reserved for women with high-risk pregnancies and complications like preeclampsia, multiple births, placenta complications, or low birth-weight,” explains Dr. Ischiropoulos. “When women with problems like these are put on bed rest, we’re monitoring their health very closely.”
Many of the side effects of bed rest—and bed rest itself—can often be avoided by eating right and moving throughout pregnancy. Talk to your physician about what exercise is safe for you, and remember to make healthy eating choices. If you are put on bed rest, your physician can help answer any questions you may have about potential risk, as well as what activities, if any, you are permitted to take part in.