UK mothers spend least time in maternity wards in developed world, study warns

Labour and the time after is when mothers and newborns are most vulnerable 

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 09 March 2016 12:56

Hospitals in the UK send home mothers quicker after giving birth than in any other developed country, a new study has found.

The academics behind the research warned that short stays could put mothers at risk if medics are not given sufficient time to check their health and that of their newborn.

Mothers recovering from childbirth in the UK spend a day and a half in maternity units on average, according to researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who compiled data on 92 different countries.

Most women do not say in a medical facility long enough after giving birth, the study published in the journal ‘PLOS Medicine’ concluded.

Women in Ukraine stayed in hospital the longest, at 6.2 days on average, while those in Egypt spent half a day in the maternity unit.

Researchers also found that women in developing countries such as Bangladesh, Ghana and Liberia spent longer in hospital than those in the UK.

Oona Campbell, professor of epidemiology and reproductive health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who lead the study, said that labour and the hours after are the highest risk period for women and babies.

The data showed a “substantial” proportion of women across the world leave hospital too soon, she said.

She added that this was particularly concerning in low-income countries where healthcare is difficult to access when a woman leaves a facility.

“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.”

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.

She added that midwives must ensure a women feels comfortable going home, and that some women are safe to leave facilities five or six hours after birth if she is given adequate care.

"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.”

However she added: ”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 Independent has contacted the Department of Health for a comment.

Additional reporting by PA

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