Bed rest can harm, instead of help, in pregnancy complications

Antepartum Bed Rest for Pregnancy Complications: Efficacy and Safety for Preventing Preterm Birth

From Biological Research for Nursing 

This article reveals that bed rest may not be the best option for preventing preterm labor and may even cause harm to the mother and baby. Bed rest is prescribed for up to 1 million women in the U.S. annually to treat pregnancy complications, based on the assumptions that it is effective in preventing preterm birth and is safe for both the mother and baby. The researcher found a number of troubling issues with bed rest, including such concerns as fatigue, depression,  and loss of: muscle function, bone and weight. The author suggested that “nurses can challenge bed-rest treatment by functioning as advocates for women and educating them about the evidence for bed-rest treatment as well as the risks and benefits”. This article is part of a special issue on “Women’s health across the lifespan”.



Preterm birth is the major maternal—child health issue across developed nations and the leading cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity. Of all deaths of infants <1year of age in the United States in 2005, 68.6% occurred in infants born prior to term. Although the preterm birth rate in European countries is 5-7%, the U.S. preterm birth rate is 12.7%, representing an increase of 9% since 2000. Antepartum bed rest/activity restriction (ABR/AR) has been a mainstay of treatment to prevent preterm birth for the past 30 years prescribed for nearly 1 million women in the United States annually, despite a lack of evidence for its effectiveness. In fact, there is increasing evidence that ABR causes several adverse physiologic and psychological side effects among women and their infants. Unfortunately, these findings have had little impact on clinical practice. This integrative review of literature provides a comprehensive analysis of the evidence for the practice of prescribing ABR and its physiologic, behavioral, and experiential side effects. It also presents a model to guide continuing research about the effects of maternal bed rest as well as evidence supporting the use of home care with bed rest, a different, safe, and feasible model of prenatal care for treating women with pregnancy complications used particularly in other countries. Finally, suggestions to improve the health of high-risk pregnant and postpartum women and their infants are provided.


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Article details

Maloni, J. (2010). Antepartum Bed Rest for Pregnancy Complications: Efficacy and Safety for Preventing Preterm Birth Biological Research For Nursing, 12 (2), 106-124 DOI: 10.1177/1099800410375978

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