New British mums 'have shortest hospital stays'
British mothers are sent home from hospital after childbirth more quickly than in any other developed country, new research suggests.
They are spending an average of just a day and a half in maternity units after having their babies - the shortest stay for any high-income country assessed, according to the data published in PLOS Medicine.
Women in Bangladesh, Ghana and Liberia have longer stays.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine complied data from 92 different countries about the length of time women stayed in health facilities after childbirth.
They concluded that a substantial proportion of women in countries around the world do not stay in health facilities for long enough after giving birth, which could result in them receiving inadequate post-natal care.
The country with the longest length of stay was Ukraine where new mothers spend 6.2 days surrounded by health workers.
But those in Egypt spend an average of just half a day in a maternity unit after childbirth.
The academics cautioned that short stays mean there could be insufficient time for medics to carry out proper checks on mothers and their newborns.
Commenting on the research, Louise Silverton, director for Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: "The length of time a woman spends in hospital will vary depending on their needs, and many other factors for example if a woman has had a Caesarean section.
"Midwives need to check to make sure women feel up to going home. However, provided the woman is medically fine, has the support she needs at home and the right post-natal care plan in place, and a good community midwife service, then going home even five or six hours after birth may be absolutely fine.
"Some areas may expect women to go to a clinic for post-natal care which is fine if she is feeling well and has transport, but not if she is unwell and does not have transport.
"I would also stress that many safety issues could be missed if a midwife does not see the woman at home.
"In the UK post-natal care is under pressure due to staffing issues and budget cuts. Our own research in 2013 showed that too many women are going home when they are not ready and this needs addressing.
"The decision about when a woman goes home after birth is one that should be made through discussion with the woman, midwives and medical staff. The length of time and the care of the woman should be based on her needs, not on resources or availability of beds."
Study lead author Oona Campbell, professor of epidemiology and reproductive health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "Our new findings suggest that a substantial proportion of women around the world are leaving childbirth facilities too soon after giving birth.
"This is especially alarming in low-income countries where access to care after being discharged is often limited. It is crucial we make sure not only that childbirth facilities have skilled care attendants and effective monitoring and treatment, but also that women stay in hospital long enough so that they and their newborn babies can benefit from these.
"Labour and the hours that follow are the highest risk period for women and babies, and many women and their families undertake great efforts to reach health facilities to give birth, travelling long distances at expense.
"The challenge is to commit to achieving adequate lengths of stay for women in low- and middle-income countries, while ensuring any additional time is used to provide high-quality and respectful post-natal care."