Is Bed Rest Bunk?
A mother's sacrifice
Despite the lack of evidence that bed rest works, doctors still prescribe it and most mothers-to-be more than willingly oblige their orders -- even though doing so can place an extreme burden on them, not to mention their families. "Women pay a high price for being on bed rest," explains Judith Maloni, R.N., Ph.D, author of a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health, which found that bed rest can result in adverse side effects, such as muscle atrophy, hip pain, low weight gain in the mother and baby, increased fatigue, and depression. Postpartum, women report difficulty recovering. "After weeks or months on bed rest, a new mother often won't have the strength to care for her newborn," says Maloni. Financial pressures due to lost wages and medical bills can increase a woman's struggle as well.
When pregnant with her daughter, Missy Intihar of East Amherst, New York, was put on bed rest after she started having contractions during her 24th week. She says the experience was one of the most difficult times in her life. Since she needed to lie down except for a daily shower and bathroom trips, Intihar had to quit her part-time job while her husband worked overtime and tended to household chores at night. She also had the added frustration of not being able to care for her then 16-month-old son, Riley. "He had to use a step ladder to get in and out of his crib," she says. "The guilt was unbearable -- I was a mother, but I couldn't care for my son; I was a wife, but I felt like I'd abandoned my husband," she says. After she delivered her daughter, Kennedy, full-term, Intihar felt so lethargic that just walking to the nursery left her winded.
Yet, for all of her suffering, Intihar says that it was worth the reassurance that she was doing everything she could to protect her child. "There may be no medical proof that bed rest works, but I did it and delivered a healthy baby girl," she says. "That's proof enough for me."