Last updated October 12th, 2020
According to statistics published in December of 2019, hospital births accounted for the majority of births in the US. Despite more moms opting to birth at home, a good number still choose a hospital birth. If you’re expecting soon, you might wonder: How long will I stay in the hospital after giving birth?
It generally depends. Moms can stay as little as 24 hours and as much as a couple of days in the hospital after birth.
If everything goes smoothly and there’s nothing wrong with mom and baby, the stay is typically shorter. The opposite happens if there are any extra procedures or complications involved.
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Why moms choose a hospital birth
There are many possible reasons why parents will opt for a hospital birth. Here are some of the benefits of hospital births:
If a mother or baby is considered high-risk, a hospital birth may be the safer option. High risk pregnancies are when there are complications involved such as when mom has diabetes or high blood pressure.
A pregnancy is also considered at risk if there are risk factors with the baby such as placenta previa, breech presentation, or multiple fetuses.
A hospital is also more equipped with the needed intervention and staff for unforeseen complications during birth. These include placental abruption (when the placenta detaches from the womb before the baby gets out), cord prolapse, or uterine retraction.
Access to pain relief
Birthing is a process that involves intense contractions that can be too painful for most. While hypnotherapy and meditation can help some, it can be too much, especially during transition when the baby is close to coming out.
In a hospital birth, pain relief is more accessible for moms if they choose. There are anesthesiologists and trained staff available to provide narcotics or epidurals, for example.
Not all moms may go for pain relief in a hospital birth, but many moms find comfort knowing that they have the option for pain relief just in case.
Access to an operating room
Not all births turn out as planned. There are instances where you might need a caesarean section to get your baby out safely.
If your healthcare provider sees that you need a caesarean section to get your baby safely out, all they have to do is to wheel you from the delivery room and into the operating room.
In a home birth setting, if this happens, you will have to be transported while in the middle of labor. This may put you or your baby at risk if you are nowhere near the hospital.
Immediate advanced care
In a hospital setting, you will have complete access to advanced medical care. There will be experts such as pediatricians, surgeons, and anesthetists on standby if you or your baby need them.
The presence of experts is very useful for high-risk pregnancies and births with complications. It ensures that you and your baby are safe and healthy by providing the best possible care that you need.
What to expect after a Cesarean delivery
A Caesarean delivery, whether planned or not, is still a major surgery. You can expect to stay in the hospital for around 2 to 4 days after the operation.
Immediately after the operation, you may be transported to a post-anesthesia care unit while the anesthesia wears off. Your baby may be taken to the neonatal unit for observation while you recover.
Depending on hospital polity, you may or may not be roomed in with your baby during your hospital stay.
During your stay, you will be monitored on how well you are recovering. You will not be able to take in solid food until you pass some gas, and your doctor may urge you to move your legs, sit up, and stand to help hasten the process and start recovery.
You will also be encouraged to pass your first stool after the operation before you will be allowed to get discharged. This may take up to three days because the anesthesia may have dulled and slowed your got temporarily.
What to expect after a normal hospital delivery
If all goes well with a vaginal delivery, you can expect to stay in the hospital for just 24 hours.
Within this 24 hours, you and your baby will be monitored to see if there is any concern that they should worry about, such as excessive bleeding or if baby’s vitals are unstable.
This also gives the staff ample time to finish the paperwork around your new baby’s birth. They will gather all the necessary information to complete the details that will go into your baby’s birth certificate.
Your partner or family member may be able to stay with you overnight if you’re expected to be discharged in the morning.
Factors that can lengthen your hospital stay after delivery
There are several factors that contribute to a longer hospital stay after birth:
Needed specialized neonatal care
According to this scientific article, a woman’s hospital stay after birth is most greatly lengthened if her baby needed specialized care. That means moms may need to stay in the hospital for as long as the baby is there.
Such as scenario is highly felt when a baby is born premature. The baby may need to be kept in an incubator for a few days up to a couple of weeks. This will indeed affect how long mom stays in the hospital too.
I had a normal delivery with my firstborn but had premature rupture of membranes (PROM) which put him at risk for infection. As a result, we had to stay in the hospital for three days despite being cleared for complications because the baby had to be monitored longer as a safety measure.
Many things can happen during a birth. That is what the hospital staff are on stand by for. A mom may get stitches or will have to go an emergency procedure such as a vacuum birth or a caesarean section.
Such extra procedures will need more monitoring to ensure that the mom is safe and healthy enough to recover on her own outside of the hospital. During the stay doctors and nurses are on watch for any side-effects of anesthesia or any other following complications such as excessive bleeding.
Some hospitals may have different policies surrounding hospital stays after birth. While 24 hours is the average across all uncomplicated births, some hospitals may require 36 to 48 hours after an uncomplicated birth.
Hospital policies may be influenced by their statistics on births, they capability to process papers, and their bed capacity.
Sometimes a new mother is unsure of her preparedness to be discharged. She may confide with her healthcare provider to make arrangements for a lengthier stay.
How to shorten your hospital stay after delivery
Of course, plenty of mothers prefer to be discharged soon after giving birth, provided that their babies are well and healthy. Many healthcare practitioners feel the same way as there are risks associated with longer hospital stays such as the increased risk for infection.
Here are a couple of things you can do to help shorten your hospital stay after delivery:
A great way to hasten recovery is to go from lying down to standing up. But first, you have to check in with your doctor if it is safe for you to walk around, especially if it was a complicated labor process or if you had an emergency procedure done.
Walking keeps your muscles strong and facilitates good circulation so that your meds and your nutrition gets circulated more efficiently throughout the body.
To make walking a part of your recovery process, do the following:
- Get a go-signal from your doctor that you can start walking around. You can do this in your room, in the hall, or around the ward.
- Wear protective gear such as a robe to protect you from the cold or to keep you from getting exposed; and, more importantly, some non-slip slippers with good grips to keep you from slipping on those shiny floors.
- Have someone accompany you, if possible, to keep an eye on you and assist you should you need some help.
- Limit your walk to just a few minutes at first, gradually increasing as you feel more comfortable and stronger in the next few days.
Good quality rest
You might find it hard to fall asleep in the hospital, especially if you are sharing a room with other patients. They may make noises or watch too much TV. However, it is still important for you to get some good sleep for your body to recuperate faster.
Try to pack some earplugs in your hospital bag. If your baby is roomed in with you, have someone watch her for a few hours while you catch on some Zs.
Finally, you have to watch your nutrition to make sure you get out of the hospital sooner. Hospital food may not be the best, but they are usually make under the evaluation of your doctor and a nutritionist to determine which type of diet is best for a recovering mom.
As soon as you are allowed to eat solid food, stick to eating clean and healthy food as much as possible. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help your digestion, which, in turn, will help you pass your first stool –which means that you can be discharged soon after.
Eating protein and vitamin-rich foods will also help you heal faster, which is important if you have stitches, or underwent a C-section and have a big wound on your belly.
Remember that birth is a big event, and your body has gone through so much. That is why it is important to take it easy on yourself after birth.
Take good care of your body with reasonable exercise, rest, and nutrition. Most of all, give yourself time to really recover while you stay in the hospital for 1 to 4 days.