Simple Workout Urged for Pregnant Women on Bed Rest

Mar. 23 -- SATURDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women restricted to bed rest can and should do safe, specially-designed physical activity, say experts at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

Each year in the United States, an estimated 700,000 women with high-risk pregnancies (including nearly all those carrying triplets or more) are put on bed rest, the APTA said. But, in many cases, the incapacitating effects of total bed rest are not being addressed, leaving some expectant mothers ill-prepared for pre- and post-partum physical and psychological challenges.

"As a result of prolonged bed rest, pregnant women experience an array of symptoms ranging from cardiovascular deconditioning, musculoskeletal discomforts, stressful postures and positions, skin breakdown, muscle weakness, as well as psychological issues such as guilt, stress, and depression," Jean Irion, a professor of physical therapy at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, said in a prepared statement.

Irion teaches physical therapists across the United States to develop safe physical activity programs for pregnant women on bed rest.

"Physical therapy is often equated with exercise, and many physicians equate exercise to a strong potential for exacerbating a given high-risk condition, so they don't suggest pregnant women restricted to bed rest see a physical therapist. This is a huge mistake," according to Irion.

She said physical therapists work to minimize loss of muscle tone and strength and to make the women as comfortable as possible.

"We're not training these women to compete in a triathlon following delivery. Our aim is for these women to maintain some strength, flexibility and range of motion in the upper and lower extremities, so they'll be prepared for the demands of lifting carrying, and holding their babies," Irion said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about bed rest during pregnancy.

SOURCE: American Physical Therapy Association, news release, April 2007