Drive-Through Hospital Births
A new study shows an alarming number of women around the world leave the hospital too soon after giving birth
If you’ve given birth, did you feel like you were rushed out of the hospital after the fact? If so, you’re not alone. An alarming number of women around the world leave the hospital too soon after having a baby, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine.
The study outlines the average length of hospital stay post-childbirth in 92 countries. As many as 80 percent of women in some countries aren’t spending enough time recovering in a health care facility.
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What the study found
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found wide variations in how long women in low-, middle- and high-income countries stayed at health facilities following vaginal deliveries and C-sections. One end of the spectrum is Egypt, where women who give birth vaginally stay an average of just half a day. (Those who have a C-section leave after two and a half days.) On the other end is Ukraine, where women stay an average of 6.2 days after vaginal births and 9.3 days after C-sections. In the United States, women stay an average of two days after vaginal births and 3.4 days for cesarean, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
"Our new findings suggest that a substantial proportion of women around the world are leaving childbirth facilities too soon after giving birth. This is especially alarming in low-income countries where access to care after being discharged is often limited,” study lead author Oona Campbell, PhD, said in a press release.
How long is long enough?
How long women stay in the hospital depends on many factors, of course: whether the birth is vaginal or by C-section, whether it happens in a poor or developed country, whether the baby is healthy, whether the mother is healthy and more. But generally, the World Health Organization (WHO) says women should stay in the hospital at least 24 hours after a vaginal delivery. And the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says women should stay at the hospital for two to four days after a C-section.
Leaving so soon?
Leaving a health care facility too soon can have deadly consequences for mothers and babies. As the study notes, there's a direct correlation between fatalities and hospital stay length. Countries with higher infant mortality rates have shorter hospital stays.
Shorter stays are especially problematic in developing countries and low-income settings because access to health care after discharge may be limited.
“It is crucial we make sure not only that childbirth facilities have skilled care attendants and effective monitoring and treatment, but also that women stay in hospital long enough so that they and their newborn babies can benefit from these. Labor and the hours that follow are the highest risk period for women and babies,” Campbell said. “The challenge is to commit to achieving adequate lengths of stay for women in low- and middle-income countries, while ensuring any additional time is used to provide high-quality and respectful postnatal care."
Want to know how your country stacks up? The map below shows the average length of stay by country for vaginal deliveries.
Map of countries with national-level data on length of stay after singleton vaginal deliveries. (Photo: PLOS Medicine)
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