Think about spending weeks at a time watching Netflix or reading a book while lying in bed. Something terribly horrible could happen if you stand up. So you only use the restroom when it's truly essential, and if you're doing it right, you only consume the food and beverages that other people bring you. It doesn't matter if you have a toddler to follow around, a dog that has to be exercised, a job to go to. What counts is that you wait until your doctor says you can get up in bed or on the couch, if you prefer. Although it might sound pleasant to you or unbearably unpleasant to others, roughly 20% of pregnant women actually experience this at some point. Bed rest is recommended for all types of pregnancy issues, including gestational diabetes, inadequate fetal growth, and an incompetent cervix. It might take the form of restricted daily activities, supervised time in a hospital bed, or just lots of sitting around.
It's an ancient concept, but in the 19th century, any indication of problems would send a woman to bed alone, in the dark, and occasionally even with earplugs, thus creating a sensory deprivation chamber. While it may appear different now that one may converse and listen to music at will, lying flat on one's back while pregnant is still a major inconvenience. The issue is that there isn't much solid scientific data to back putting pregnant women to bed. In reality, a 2013 analysis of recent scientific research discovered that there is substantial evidence that bed rest is not only dangerous but also offers no medical benefits.
Dr. Anne Drapkin Lyerly, an obstetrician and professor of bioethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine who co-authored the review, says there is a long-standing misconception that pregnant women should be put to bed, shouldn't exercise, should be in dark rooms, etc. The primary medical issue for women who are put to bed appears to be blood clots. However, there is no evidence to support this theory. In fact, some studies show that the event you're wanting to avoid, like premature birth, is more prevalent in women who get put to bed than in women who don't.
We are aware that both immobility and pregnancy increase the risk of blood clots. Therefore, if you're pregnant and immobile, your risk of developing blood clots in your legs and pelvis is significantly higher. This can be risky because there's a possibility that one of them will break off and travel to the lungs, where it could pose a serious health risk called pulmonary embolism. That's not all, though. Think about the other things that may occur if you don't move for, say, 10 weeks at a time: If you don't put weight on your body, your bones will demineralize and weaken, which can result in disorders like osteoporosis. Additionally, there is a possibility of muscular atrophy, which can be detrimental to a woman's overall health as well as her way of life if she has a physically demanding profession, an energetic toddler at home, or even needs to purchase a bag of dog food at the grocery store.
In addition to socioeconomic hazards, there are psychological risks such as depression and anxiety, says Lyerly. There are significant socioeconomic consequences for people when a doctor prescribes bed rest, a practice that has been shown to be ineffective and gives the woman the impression that the success of her pregnancy depends on her not moving at all. "So many women work, putting them to bed might mean they could lose their jobs, lose income, need to hire childcare, their partners might need to scale back on work. What happens if she uses the restroom, takes a shower, or makes a snack trip to the kitchen? She will probably hold herself responsible if she loses the child.
According to Lyerly, "That might be a lifetime of shame for someone." Since the evidence seems to be pretty clear that strict bed rest is harmful and not beneficial, why do doctors prescribe it so frequently? "It makes the doctor feel like they're doing something — they're acting as if they have something to offer a patient, when in fact they're harming them by prescribing it." It's a mystery that even professionals can't solve, claims a research from 2008: "We cannot explain why obstetricians advocated an intervention they believed was not advantageous," the authors stated. Bed rest is not a benign intervention, and it can place a heavy social and financial burden on the patient and her family.