Bed rest after birth could put ethnic women at risk, study finds

Ripal Shah with her son Prayan in her sister’s apartment. Credit: SMH, Jessica Hromas

A new study shows women from various ethnic backgrounds are continuing the traditional cultural practice of extended bed rest after giving birth which could be putting their health at risk.

The research conducted by Westmead Hospital clinical midwife consultant Sarah Melov and co-author director of surgical outcomes Associate Professor Kerry Hitos interviewed 150 new mothers in western Sydney.

It found more than 80 per cent practiced traditional rest.

Researchers are warning women of the potential risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), a potentially life-threatening condition which can be caused by immobility.

Venous thromboembolism is the formation of blood clots in the deep veins of the leg, groin, arm or lung.

Clinical midwife consultant Sarah Melov said educating women about the risks of blood clots which have developed from a lack of movement is critical.

“Bed rest after birth is common for African, Indian, Chinese, Korean and Arabic women who get help from their mother who may have come from overseas,” she said.

“Staying in bed is one of the biggest risk factors for VTE with a 22-fold increase of risk during the six to eight week postpartum period.”

Ms Melov and the Department of Surgery’s Associate Professor Kerry Hitos from Westmead Hospital led the first study of its kind on culturally diverse women who practice traditional bed rest.

The research also found regardless of how long they had lived in Australia many mothers still followed this cultural routine.

“The belief is strongly embedded that if you rest properly you will benefit all your life with better health,” Ms Melov said.

“The next step is raising awareness and promoting the message that women can still rest but should do it safely by moving more.”

This project was supported by the Research and Education network at Westmead Hospital.

To read the story on the Sydney Morning Herald go to this link.