Many insurance plans cover a two-day hospital stay for a vaginal delivery and four days for a C-section, though some women, such as those with older children at home, negotiate an earlier discharge. However long you stay, a few things are required before you leave:
Mommy exam: The staff will make sure that you're healing properly— i.e., that bleeding is slowing and your uterus is contracting.
Baby exam: A pediatrician will examine your baby and administer a heelstick blood test, which screens for several metabolic disorders, such as phenylketonuria. Some states perform a hearing screening as well.
Skills check: They'll determine that your baby is able to breastfeed or bottle-feed successfully and that you understand how to perform basic tasks like bathing, caring for the cord stump and diapering. Some hospitals convey this kind of information in a pamphlet or TV segment.
Forms signed: You'll need to fill out a birth certificate even if you haven't named your baby yet.
Have someone take home gifts and flowers the day before you leave so that your last day is less hectic, suggests McKeever. Also, make sure your vehicle is equipped with a properly installed infant car seat that you know how to use—you don't want vexing straps and buckles to delay your happy homecoming!
Insider Tips From The Labor Nurse
1. Use your call light wisely. Ask for several things together, such as ibuprofen, juice and breastfeeding help. Clustering requests lets us provide more focused, efficient care.
2. Don't shower alone. After delivery, fainting is common and it happens most often in the shower because the hot water causes blood pressure to drop. Use the shower bench and ask your nurse, partner or friend to stand by.
3. Adopt a "no visitors" policy while breastfeeding if necessary. Some babies— and moms—need peace and privacy to learn the big job of nursing. — Jeanne Faulkner, R.N. (read her blog entries at fitpregnancy.com/blog/labornurse)
10 Must-Pack Items
You've got the camera, toiletries and a nursing nightie. You also need:
•Your birth plan/wish list
•Prepaid calling card and list of phone numbers of family and friends
•Your favorite pillow
•A headband or hair tie
•A breastfeeding pillow
•Two nursing bras
•A box of disposable breast pads
•A loose going-home outfit for you
•A cozy going-home outfit for baby
A Homey Alternative
About 99 percent of U.S. births take place in hospitals, but about 10,000 women a year choose to deliver in a freestanding birth center. These are usually run by midwives and aim to provide a natural, minimally invasive experience, says Meagan Francis, author of The Everything Health Guide to Postpartum Care (Adams Media, 2007). They're not for women who want the option of an epidural or other anesthesia, and you'll need to check with your insurer about whether your stay will be covered.
In an emergency, you'll be transported to a hospital. Continuity of care is a major birth-center perk, says Francis. "You'll be cared for by the same few people during pregnancy, labor and postpartum," she says. You usually go home four to 12 hours after delivering, but a midwife will come to your home the next day. To explore this option further, visit birthcenters.org.