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The last few weeks of pregnancy — and the first few after baby is born — are uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. Your hips hurt, your back hurts, you’ve likely got heartburn, and your belly is always in the way.

Then, when baby comes, your whole body feels it. And the pain does not go away overnight.

These periods of time aren’t without risk, either. Placental abruption, preeclampsia, and clotting are all possible complications.

Historically, childbirth has been a dangerous time. That’s why, for centuries, doctors and healers have often recommended “lying in” toward the end of pregnancy or after the baby is born. But is it a good idea?

Lying in is sometimes called pre- or postpartum confinement. It’s a practice where a pregnant person limits their movement before and after birth in order to reduce the risk of pregnancy or postpartum complications, such as preterm labor or bleeding.

It often involves bed rest — spending the majority of your day in bed or stretched out on a couch. Sometimes, it might mean confinement to a bed in the hospital, hooked up to monitors.

Bed rest before the baby is born used to be prescribed quite regularly in Western medicine for people who had higher risk pregnancies.

Lying in after the baby is born is a cultural practice still embraced in parts of the world today.

In Chinese medicine, lying in is a tradition called Zuo Yue Zi — or “sitting the month” — and it dates back to the Han Dynasty in China.

According to the tradition, new parents and their newborns would stay confined inside so their bodies could heal. They’d follow other rules too, such as no visitors, no washing, and dietary restrictions.

Zuo Yue Zi remains a popular practice in East and Southeast Asia today, as well as among immigrant communities in the United States.

For thousands of years, other cultures and countries around the world have had similar lying-in postpartum cultural practices to encourage healing and breastfeeding so the baby could survive (since formula didn’t yet exist).

In the United States, until the World Wars, it was customary for parents who gave birth to stay in a hospital bed for about a week after delivery. But for parents that could afford to lay in longer, it would often continue after they got home as well.

In general, lying in involves limiting your movements by staying in bed or seated most of the day.

From there, the rules vary. It’s rare today for full bed rest to be prescribed because of the risks (more on that below), but your doctor may recommend you spend more time resting and keeping your physical activity a little lighter, like going on short walks instead of strenuous activity.

Sitting the month in traditional Chinese culture involves staying at home, as well as following other rules, such as not:

  • showering
  • eating raw vegetables
  • drinking cold water
  • having sex
  • climbing stairs
  • having visitors

Probably not. Most experts suggest that strict bed rest does not prevent preterm labor or reduce preeclampsia risk.

However, doctors might still prescribe rest and reduced activity at home.

Asking you to schedule rest times or avoid certain kinds of strenuous activity could be beneficial in some cases. For example, bed rest might be prescribed if you have a problem with your placenta or cervix, or if you’re expecting multiple babies.

Postpartum, there’s also evidence that taking at least some time in the first 2 weeks to recuperate at home can help you heal and bond with your baby, potentially reducing postpartum depression. In other words, taking it easy on yourself and letting family and friends take care of you is a good thing.

It will take about 6 weeks, too, before your doctor will clear you for sexual activity.

But you should still get up and move around — including after a C-section — to reduce your risk of blood clots.

In short, yes. Especially if your lying in is strict (i.e., you spend more time being inactive than active).

When the World Wars shortened the amount of time that people stayed in the hospital after giving birth, it did lead to a decrease in cases of “Milk leg,” which was the name given to blood clots that started in the legs and often turned into clots that traveled to the lungs.

This makes sense: Blood clots are one of the most dangerous complications pre- and post-birth.

According to the CDC, a blood clot in the lungs, or pulmonary embolism, is one of the most common causes of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States. And this risk is even higher if you’ve had a C-section.

In fact, 2014 research suggests that the risk of blood clots remains for up to 12 weeks after having a baby, which could lead to heart attacks, stroke, or pulmonary embolisms. Exercise can help reduce that risk, though.

In addition, lying in can raise your risk for other physical and mental health-related complications.

A 2014 study of Chinese women found that limiting physical activity for a month was bad for their muscular and cardiovascular health. The study also found that it led to increased rates of postpartum depression.

A 2015 study of Chinese-American mothers in New York City suggested that sitting the month (lying in) did help the mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight. But it also found that this could lead to high cholesterol, high blood glucose levels, and cause “extreme sadness.” There were delays in lactation and early introduction of solids in some cases.

Bed rest before the baby is born may also pose real health risks, including blood clots, as well as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • low birth weight in baby
  • slower recovery after birth
  • weakened bones and muscles

It can aggravate typical pregnancy symptoms too, like heartburn, constipation, and swelling — and increase your chances of gestational diabetes.

That’s why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) doesn’t recommend traditional bed rest before or after the baby is born — because physical activity is so important to pregnant people’s health.

Taking it easy toward the end of your pregnancy and after baby is born can be a good idea — your body is going through a lot.

But in general, too much inactivity isn’t good for you. It can increase your chances of developing a blood clot and take a toll on your physical and mental health.

This is why full bed rest isn’t recommended much anymore, though your doctor might still tell you to rest when you can.