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Bed rest does nothing for women at risk of early delivery

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Health News : Having a short cervix increases a pregnant woman’s chance of delivering prematurely, and a new study suggests going on bed rest does nothing to allay that risk.

Researchers found that women were more than twice as likely to give birth before 37 weeks when doctors told them to restrict some combination of their work, non-work and sexual activities.

“Way back when… people would have problems in pregnancy and we would have no interventions available, so we just told them to rest,” said Dr. Nathan Fox, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

The new study, he told Reuters Health, “demonstrates that bed rest is something that is still prevalent, but unfortunately remains an intervention that is not proven to be effective and is potentially harmful.”

Although the findings don’t support bed rest for women with a short cervix, it’s unclear why restricting activity would increase the chance of premature birth, researchers said.

One possibility is that women who were put on bed rest had certain qualities that made them more likely to deliver early in the first place, but that were unknown to the researchers.

Or, the stress and anxiety that can come with being bedridden may actually increase certain risks, Dr. William Grobman from Northwestern University in Chicago and his colleagues wrote in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“The point is, even if we didn’t imagine that there was any increased risk, we’re still incredibly far from showing any decrease in risk,” Grobman told Reuters Health.

Restricting activities may be recommended to any woman who doctors perceive to be at risk of premature birth, whether because of a short cervix or being pregnant with twins or triplets, for example.

However, Grobman said, “There’s not good evidence from good studies that activity restriction significantly improves outcomes.”

The new data come from a study that was originally designed to measure the effects of progesterone injections on the risk of premature birth among pregnant women with a short cervix. Reuters 

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