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You are here: Home - Pregnancy - Labor & Childbirth

After Baby Is Born: When Can We Go Home from the Hospital?

by Katlyn Joy | April 16, 2013 2:30 PM
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You packed the labor bag, bought the baby announcements and have fresh batteries in the camera. You wrote the birth plan, have a month's worth of dinners in the freezer and washed up the baby clothes. You are r-e-a-d-y.

Next thing you know, the big moment has arrived. Then very quickly it's time to switch gears to "When do we get to go home?"

For most women the answer will be 24 to 48 hours after a run of the mill vaginal delivery, and 48 to 72 hours after a complicated labor and delivery or a C-section. Occasionally, this will be extended to 96 hours if baby or mother's conditions warrant further observation.

What Complications Can Mean a Longer Stay?

There are no exact standards for when a mother and baby will be released from the hospital if there are complications. Each case will be judged individually. However, there are some conditions or occurrences which will necessitate a longer stay.

Cesarean birth
Probably the most common reason for stays longer than 48 hours is a c-section. While it is commonplace it is still a more complicated birth as it involved major surgery. Both mom and baby need to be watched for a bit after birth to make certain everything is off to a good start. If the c-section was an unplanned emergency situation, the stay may be extended even more because the labor may have been more of a complicated one than for a planned c-section.

Prematurity
Baby will need more time in the hospital if born early, and just how long and how developed the baby is will determine just how long of a stay will be required. If baby is born at 37 or 38 weeks and has good lung development, you might be out in a week or so. The earlier the baby arrives, it's probably good to expect a stay in equal measure.

Infant jaundice
Another typical reason for a longer hospital stay is neonatal jaundice or infant jaundice. This condition results in higher bilirubin levels in newborns. Bilirubin is the yellow substance created when red blood cells are replaced. It is the job of the liver to break down bilirubin so it can be excreted in the newborn's stool. If bilirubin counts are high it can be due to prematurity, a difficult delivery, mismatch between mother and baby's blood, infection and high numbers of red blood cells which is common in small for gestational age babies. It also can occur with conditions such as congenital diseases, low oxygen levels during birth, genetic conditions, diseases of the liver, and with certain medications.

Vaginal tearing.
You may need to stay a bit longer if you had a more than superficial vaginal tear which requires surgical repair. You may also need pain medications and antibiotics to ward off infection in the affected area.

Pre-eclampsia, Eclampsia or Gestational Diabetes
Often, you may have been under observation or required an induced delivery. This may cause you to stay a bit longer in the hospital to ensure both you and baby are doing well and that all vitals are normal now.

Complications of labor that required interventions.
This could be a forceps delivery, needing transfusions following birth, or any unforeseen event in labor. If you needed any special treatment or interventions during or immediately after birth, you may need to be watched for a bit more time in the hospital before being released to go home.

Problems with baby's health.
This may be pro-active care, or just to be safe due to baby being born a bit early, or perhaps baby had some problems during labor with heart rates. Some babies need a little extra help breathing initially but quickly begin breathing normally on their own after a bit of assistance. These babies will probably stay in the NICU for at least an extra day or two to be watched.

Some babies can be born with conditions that require treatments, from medications to respiration help, or in serious cases, they may even need surgery to correct a defect. Often you will learn of these issues while pregnant after getting tests such as a sonogram performed.

If baby may need a surgery, tests will be needed immediately after birth. In the unlikely event that baby needs such specialized care, a stay in a NICU or neonatal intensive care unit will be in order. If this level of care is not offered in the facility you gave birth at, your baby will be transferred to a hospital with this type of care.

If your hospital stay is extended beyond the normal time frame, always speak up with questions or concerns. Be sure you understand what is happening and if you don't, ask away until you do. True, asking when you can leave is sure to get you a vague at best answer, keep asking until you have some idea of what is expected and what might delay yours and your baby's release. Rest assured, however, you will be home soon and starting your new life with your new little one so try to relax and enjoy the extra sets of hands and help while it lasts.


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