Women around the world are leaving hospitals too soon after giving birth, according to a new analysis.
The World Health Organization suggests that women stay in the hospital at least 24 hours after a vaginal delivery, but researchers found that depending on the region, up to 83 percent of women left before that cutoff.
Also, up to 75 percent of women left hospitals too soon after cesarean-section deliveries, based on U.S. recommendations and laws.
“In some countries women are getting discharged incredibly early,” said lead author Oona Campbell, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The research team’s overall goal is to measure quality of care, she told Reuters Health, and to that end, “Length of stay is one thing that we’re really trying to get a handle on.”
Campbell and her colleagues analyzed average hospital stays after childbirth in 92 countries – including 45 middle-income and 10 low-income countries.
In developing countries, the average stay after a vaginal delivery ranged from a half day in Egypt to a little more than six days in Ukraine.
After C-section deliveries in developing countries, stays varied between two and a half days in Egypt to almost 10 days in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s longer hospitalizations may be a result of former Soviet Union norms that stipulated seven-day stays for women giving birth, the researchers write in PLOS Medicine.
In developed countries, the U.K. had the shortest average stay after vaginal delivery, at one and a half days.
Campbell said the new study can’t tell what quality of care women received, but short and long hospital stays carry risks.
For example, she said, staying too long in a hospital may increase a woman’s risk for an infection.
“On the other hand, you want them to stay long enough to make sure they’re not bleeding, the baby is feeding and the baby isn’t jaundiced,” Campbell said. “So there are a lot of reasons to want the stay to be long enough.”
Dr. Chris Glantz, a high-risk pregnancy expert who was not involved in the new study, told Reuters Health that medical, social and hospital factors all influence when women in the U.S. leave hospitals after giving birth.
“There is no one size fits all here,” said Glantz, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
He said women and their partners can talk with their healthcare providers and hospitals about policies and general expectations. Healthcare providers should also give people a preview of the expected length-of-stay, but Glantz said it’s important for people to remain flexible on when they might be sent home.