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The length of a hospital stay after delivery tends to be one-size-fits-all: 48 hours for a normal vaginal birth and 96 hours for an uncomplicated Cesarean section. But a study suggests that moms should be discharged based on individual factors, not simply how long they've been in the hospital. Henry Bernstein, D.O., and colleagues at New Hampshire's Children's Hospital at Dartmouth examined the decisions to discharge more than 4,000 mothers after childbirth. They found that 17 percent of mom-baby pairs were not ready to go home. The mothers' unreadiness was linked to being a first-time mom or black, having a chronic disease or inadequate prenatal care, delivering during nonroutine hospital hours or having insufficient in-hospital education on baby care or breastfeeding. The study suggests the pediatrician, OB and mom should all have input about the release time.
Families may need other services to smooth the hospital-to-home transition, such as a day-three pediatrician appointment or a home visit from a nurse. "Lots can happen after discharge," Bernstein says. "A mother needs to ask herself, 'Who do I need to connect with if there is a problem or question?'"