Activity Limits in Pregnancy

Posted On: January 16, 2018 By CIW

The following blog is a summary of the Activity Restriction in Pregnancy patient handout brought to you by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine with the help of Christina Davidson, MD, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

During pregnancy, there are times where activity will be physically limited due to the progression of the pregnancy or if complications were to arise; warranting some sort of bed rest. However, restricting activity during pregnancy without the guidance of a doctor is not recommended. This blog will discuss when bed rest is most often recommended and what evidence there is to support that.

What is Considered Activity Restriction?

Activity restriction often has a couple of names in reference to pregnancy. Activity restriction may also be referred to as “bed rest” or even “modified bed rest” if the goal isn’t to fully eliminate physical activity. The terms activity restriction and bed rest are usually used interchangeably; however actually have different meanings. If a woman is admitted to the hospital, bed rest usually means so activity other than bathing and using the bathroom. When at home this could mean something entirely different.

Some sort of activity restriction is most often recommended for pregnancy complications such as:

  • premature labor
  • women with a short cervix
  • premature membrane or ‘water’ rupture
  • High blood pressure
  • Multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)

Is Activity Restriction Actually Beneficial?

Contrary to popular belief, there is little research or evidence to support that it actually improves the chances of a different outcome. There is some research that hints to bed rest actually increasing the risk for complications such as blood clots and gestational diabetes. Even in the case of premature membrane rupture, there is little evidence to back up that bed rest changes the delivery outcome.

What are the Professional Recommendations for Activity Restriction?

In general, the recommendations are mixed and often assessed on a case by case basis. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend bed rest for preventing premature birth or for any other reason. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada has expressed that an overall decrease in stress or work load could be helpful in preventing high blood pressure but doesn’t recommend additional rest for those with existing high blood pressure. The National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health, in collaboration with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also does not recommend restricted activity for treating high blood pressure.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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