The use of bed rest in medicine dates back to Hippocrates, who first recommended bed rest as a restorative measure for pain. With the formalization of prenatal care in the early 1900s, maternal bed rest became a standard of care, especially toward the end of pregnancy. Antepartum bed rest is a common obstetric management tool, with up to 95% of obstetricians utilizing maternal activity restriction in some way in their practice. Bed rest is prescribed for a variety of complications of pregnancy, from threatened abortion and multiple gestations to preeclampsia and preterm labor. Although the use of bed rest is pervasive, there is a paucity of data to support its use. Additionally, many well-documented adverse physical, psychological, familial, societal, and financial effects have been discussed in the literature. There have been no complications of pregnancy for which the literature consistently demonstrates a benefit to antepartum bed rest. Given the well-documented adverse effects of bed rest, disruption of social relationships, and financial implications of this intervention, there is a real need for scientific investigation to establish whether this is an appropriate therapeutic modality. Well-designed randomized, controlled trials of bed rest versus normal activity for various complications of pregnancy are required to lay this debate to rest once and for all.
© 2011 Mount Sinai School of Medicine.