Bed rest (expectant management) for preterm labor

Expectant management is the close monitoring of a pregnancy for complications. It may involve some bed rest at home or in the hospital. Being on expectant management may mean you are advised to stop working, reduce your activity level, or possibly spend a lot of time resting (partial bed rest).

There is no evidence that long-term bed rest lowers the risk of preterm delivery.1 Studies have shown that strict bed rest for 3 days or more may raise your risk of getting a blood clot in the legs or lungs.2 Strict bed rest is no longer used to prevent preterm labor. But your doctor may recommend expectant management with some bed rest (partial bed rest).

If you are prescribed partial bed rest

If your doctor or nurse-midwife suggests expectant management for preventing preterm labor, discuss the benefits and risks in light of your condition.

When you are resting or sleeping during late pregnancy, try to lie on your side. This is thought to improve blood flow to the uterus and fetus(es).

Dehydration can trigger contractions, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids each day.

When you are lying down, remember to flex your feet, stretch, and move your legs as much as possible.

Citations

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2003, reaffirmed 2006). Management of preterm labor. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 43. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 101(5): 1039–1047.
  2. Cunningham FG, et al. (2005). Preterm birth. In Williams Obstetrics, 22nd ed., pp. 855–880. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Last Updated: January 14, 2009

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