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4 hours or 4 days: When should you leave the hospital after giving birth?

When’s the right time to leave hospital after giving birth?

It used to be that new mothers would stay in hospital for days after the birth of their children. Now its more like hours. The Herald Sun reports that hospitals are offering mothers gifts (like nappies, frozen meals and cleaning services) and visits from midwives to persuade them to leave hospital early and free up beds to cope with a rising number of births.

The offer is usually reserved for women having their second or third babies, although some health experts are concerned that these offers could encourage mothers to go home before they’re ready.

When it came time to go home from hospital, Mamamia contributor Sarah Wayland had two very different experiences after the birth of her children. She writes:

There was an article in the paper recently about the new strategy aimed at early hospital discharge  for new mums – some in as little as four hours post delivery. There was a picture in the paper of a new mum holding her gorgeous little girl who spoke about going  home a few hours after her daughter was born, I guess in answer to the question that a lot of us were thinking “Why?” She explained that ‘for me, there was no better place to be than at home with baby. It was beautiful to not wake up the next day not in a strange, sterile environment but my own bed.’

Like every imaginable aspect of parenting there are a multitude of reasons why we make certain decisions but this article, and the mums response, got me thinking.

I’ve got a pigeon pair (as many people point out to me, even though I confess I don’t know what that means?). I had my daughter 5 years ago at a public hospital, using only the midwife service, it was a low risk pregnancy and everything went to plan – I even had a water birth (not by choice I simply refused to get out of the bath once they got me in). About 18 hours after I gave birth a nurse came to my room and asked me if I was ready to go home – I wasn’t – but it was my first entree into the world of difficult to answer parenting questions – you know those ones you get asked and you have no idea about how to respond. I wondered if all of the other mums had gone home,  I wondered if it was a trick question. Part of me wanted to point out that I hadn’t yet accepted the fact that the babe in the see- through cradle actually came from my body. So I waited, a whole other 12 hours and then pronounced I was ready and so off I went with a bunch of numbers, a cute going home outfit and a tiny, tiny babe.

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Second time around I did it differently. Life was different so my second baby followed suit. I booked into a private hospital, I had an obstetrician, once again it was low risk and everything went to plan – I suddenly remembered mid contraction what labour actually felt like and I ordered an epidural. Five days later I emerged from the hospital with more than a bunch of numbers – I’d had three proper meals a day, I’d slept as much as I could and I’d made it through those first few days when that sense of impending doom descends upon you as you remember the feelings that come with such a huge responsibility like having a baby (or 2).

The Towards Normal Birth Directive (NSW) has a lot of recommendations and early discharge is only one of them. The key points that are reinforced are support and choice – but each mum’s interpretation of those words will differ. I like the idea about being able to choose how you manage that first week of your baby’s life but I also remember that feeling of getting home and not knowing what to do – sure you get to see a midwife when she pops in but parenting doesn’t happen during a half hour timeslot. On the outside we can all look as if we have all the support we need but sometimes you don’t realise what you are missing until you’re home….I’d imagine that sometimes a few hours after birth we might struggle remembering our own names let alone how to get dressed and head home. Let’s hope mum’s feel as empowered to say ‘no I’ll stay’ rather than ‘sure let’s go’….

Sarah Wayland has been working as a social worker in the missing persons field since 2003.  She is a mum of two and is currently completing postgraduate studies in the field of hope and loss at the University of New England. Visit Sarah’s Blog here.

Here is Mia discussing this issue on the Today Show this morning:

What do you think – if you could have gone home straight after the birth would you have taken up the offer?

Tags: birth , kids , health-and-wellbeing
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