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Downtime Has Its Downsides
Bed rest might do more harm than good for some moms-to-be.

Downtime Has Its Downsides

A prescription for rest may be anything but relaxing for more than 1 million pregnant women every year.

Complications ranging from early contractions to high blood pressure to bleeding could prompt a doctor to put expectant mothers on bed rest—a recommendation that can vary from telling her to “take it easy” to advising her to stay confined to a bed or couch for most or all of every day.

Nursing researcher Judith Maloni, PhD, RN, took a closer look at what happens physically and mentally to moms-to-be when they’re ordered on bed rest. Her findings may surprise mothers and doctors alike.

Bed rest frequently can lead to anxiety as the expectant mother worries over every contraction, Maloni found. The strictest bed rest guidelines—when she is confined to bed for nearly 24 hours a day—also can lead to bone loss and muscle atrophy, Maloni says.

What’s more, such confining conditions can bring on depression in some women, and mothers on bed rest often face relationship conflicts with partners and other family members who must serve as her caretakers.

Maloni hopes her findings can help women and their doctors make more informed decisions about risks when prescribing bed rest for pregnancy complications.