Background: Women at risk of pre-eclampsia or gestational hypertension are sometimes advised to rest. Whether this, overall, does more good than harm is unclear.
Objectives: To assess the effects of rest or advice to reduce physical activity during pregnancy for preventing pre-eclampsia and its complications in women with normal blood pressure.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group Trials Register (December 2005), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2005), and EMBASE (2002 to August 2005).
Selection criteria: Studies were included if they were randomised trials evaluating the effects of rest or advise to reduce physical activity for preventing pre-eclampsia and its complications in women with normal blood pressure.
Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion and extracted data. Data were double checked for accuracy.
Main results: Two small trials (106 women) of uncertain quality were included. Both recruited women with a singleton pregnancy at moderate risk of pre-eclampsia from 28 to 32 weeks' gestation. There was a statistically significant reduction in the relative risk of pre-eclampsia with four to six hours rest per day (one trial, 32 women; relative risk (RR) 0.05, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.00 to 0.83), but not of gestational hypertension (RR 0.25, 95% CI 0.03 to 2.00), compared to normal activity. Rest of 30 minutes per day plus nutritional supplementation was associated with a reduction in the risk of pre-eclampsia (one trial, 74 women; RR 0.13, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.51) and also of gestational hypertension (RR 0.15, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.63). The effect on caesarean section was unclear (RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.41). No other outcomes were reported.
Authors' conclusions: Daily rest, with or without nutrient supplementation, may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia for women with normal blood pressure, although the reported effect may reflect bias and/or random error rather than a true effect. There is no information about outcomes such as perinatal mortality and morbidity, maternal morbidity, women's views, adverse effects, and costs. Current evidence is insufficient to support recommending rest or reduced activity to women for preventing pre-eclampsia and its complications. Whether women rest during pregnancy should therefore be a matter of personal choice.