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How long are you meant to stay in hospital after giving birth?

Image: Getty.

Just in case you somehow missed all the headlines, newspaper covers and general chit-chat yesterday, here’s the big news: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (i.e. ‘Kate and Wills’) have welcomed their second royal baby.

Admittedly, the whole event was a bit of a whirlwind. On Saturday afternoon, news broke here in Australia that Kate had gone into the early stages of labor; and just a few hours later we learned she had given birth to a little Princess.

RELATED: These are the beauty products Kate Middleton has been using during her pregnancy.

Then, when the nation woke up on Sunday morning, photos of the beaming couple with their new bundle of royal joy leaving St Mary’s Hospital in London were already everywhere, having been released around 5am our time. (Post continues after gallery.)

Keen number crunchers were quick to deduce the Duchess had spent 10 hours in hospital before heading home in that beautiful Jenny Packham dress.

Today, it seems a lot of people are curious as to whether it’s common for a mother to leave hospital in that space of time; considering some women can spend days in medical care post-birth, it can seem like a relatively short amount of time.

“Kate Middleton’s obviously in a very fortunate position where she’d have access to a range of disciplines, including midwives and doctors on call for her, despite the fact she’s left the hospital. It gives her the rare ability to be able to do that,” says Melbourne-based obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility specialist Dr Joseph Sgroi.

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“But that’s not to say there are’t women, even here in Australia, who several hours after giving birth can and do leave the hospital … [10 hours] is relatively early, but I’ve seen women leave earlier in the public sector. We probably wouldn’t necessarily advise it.”

In an interview with iVillage.com.au, midwife Cathryn Curtin agreed that the Duchess’ early departure wasn’t unusual. “It is absolutely safe and so many women go home after six hours, we are talking a normal vaginal delivery with no complications. For a lot of women, it is better for them to be in their home environment in their own bed than staying in hospital,” she says.

Historically, it was common for women to remain in hospital for a week after giving birth, but in the public health sector this has changed largely due to financial pressures. Dr Sgroi, a representative of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says the typical length of stay is around two days and slightly longer following a caesarian.

The Duke and Duchess after George's birth in 2013

"I think that gives time for the adjustments, particularly for new parents, in terms of all the skills they need to acquire — changing nappies, breastfeeding, bathing the baby and also bonding and attachment," Dr Sgroi says.

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"It also gives the opportunity for close observation after birth. Things can potentially go wrong in terms of bleeding, infection and the like. Having the ability to stay in hospital for one to two days gives the opportunity for that reflection to happen."

Post-birth bleeding is the most common complication of a standard birth and usually happens within the first hour or two. However, in some instances postpartum hemorrhage can occur several hours after the fact.

RELATED: “I was never expecting THIS when I gave birth.”

Ultimately, the amount of time a mother spends in hospital is determined by a number of factors. These include any previous pregnancy experiences (for instance, significant bleeding after her first birth), complications throughout her pregnancy, and the length of her labor. In particularly long labors, the uterus can become less likely to contract soon after the baby is born, which can increase the risk of bleeding.

"It also has to do with how well they're going to have support in terms of the connection with their baby — the midwifery support, the lactation, the nurses that can help with the attachment of the child soon after birth and making sure breastfeeding is taken on board," Dr Sgroi says. (Post continues after gallery.)

As for Kate Middleton, Dr Sgroi suspects her overall fitness throughout her pregnancy possibly contributed to her early departure.

"She's done exactly what we would love all women to be able to do, and that's maintain good physical exercise during pregnancy — that no doubts impact heavily in her capacity to get up and about soon after giving birth," he says.

Regardless of when a mother leaves the hospital, it's important she understand she can come back if there are any health concerns.

RELATED: Why an episiotomy during childbirth is not just a ‘little snip’.

"Bleeding can happen up to a six week period after birth, so if a woman's ever worried about bleeding, infection, pain or not breastfeeding well, they can utilise the resources of both their obstetrician and midwife in terms of seeking support and guidance," Dr Sgroi says.

It's equally important to remember that while the birth of the Princess of Cambridge has been surrounded by international fanfare, every single woman's birth and post-birth experience, and the care she receives, is going to be unique. That doesn't make it any less valid.

"Your time as a parent and the experience you have in terms of not only pregnancy and childbirth are unique to you, and the bond you have with your caregivers is going to be a special bond you have for the rest of your life and will look back fondly on," Dr Sgroi says.

What was your experience with childbirth like?

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