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When women in Massachusetts become pregnant, they’re often careful to avoid smoking and alcoholic beverages, and they do all that they can to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If pregnancy complications arise, they may be quick to seek the advice of their doctors. Unfortunately, doctors’ advice to their patients is not always helpful.

To prevent preterm labor and other problems, doctors order about 20 percent of pregnant women to go on bed rest. Although some women on bed rest are permitted to move around the house, others who have received orders for strict bed rest aren’t able to move from their beds at all, even to eat.

Because bed rest itself has recently been shown to cause even more complications, doctors increasingly less likely to recommend it to their patients. Some doctors prescribe bed rest to protect themselves from liability, and others admit that bed rest does little more than put the pregnant woman at ease. Sometimes it increases the mother’s risk of developing dangerous blood clots and leads to additional stress for the expectant mother, who is likely already worried about the health of her baby.

It can be difficult for expectant mothers to know how they should change their lifestyles during pregnancy. Because both bed rest and strenuous exercises can pose risks for expectant mothers and unborn babies, it may be best for pregnant women to find a healthy balance of exercise and rest. Women who have been given instructions that have later caused harm to themselves or their babies may want to talk to a medical malpractice attorney about their case.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “New thinking on risky pregnancies,” Sumathi Reddy, July 15, 2013