Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog: Are Hospitals Stays After Birth Too Short?

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Are Hospitals Stays After Birth Too Short?

I read a news article today about the length of a woman's hospital stay in the UK after giving birth and I was shocked to read that we have the shortest hospital stay time of any developed country in the world.

The UK average stay is a day and a half, while mothers in France tend to stay in hospital for around 4 days after giving birth and in Germany around 3 days.

Now keep in mind that these are the average stays for natural and uncomplicated births...I found it pretty shocking compared to my own hospital stays, given that my births were all c-section deliveries.

When I had my first son at Liverpool Womens Hospital 3 years ago, I was kept in hospital for 2 nights - I felt perfectly healthy the day after the birth considering I had just had major surgery but I was told it was best for me to stay in the full two days - so I did.

I hated being in the hospital of course - the food was horrible, the ward was noisy and I found it hard to get any sleep, and I've blogged before about how the rules on men not being allowed on hospital wards affect my anxiety - but I was being advised that it was best and so I went along with it of course.

Once I left the hospital, my recovery process from the c-section was very straight forward and smooth - I was feeling totally back to normal within a couple of weeks, and I never had any complications.

For my second birth 2 years later, I had moved to a different part of the country and I gave birth at Torbay Hospital - rather than being a dedicated womens hospital this was simply a small maternity wing of a small general hospital.

I was told at my pre-op appointment that the NHS now advocated "Enhanced Recoveries" for c section births - basically they gave me two high calorie drinks to consume on the morning of the section which were supposed to help my body to recover faster from the procedure, and the faster my recovery...the sooner I could go home!

The day after my c section birth, I was told it was time to go was less than 24 hours after the birth when the nurse advised I would be discharged within the hour and to start packing up, showering, etc.

I told the nurse that I was a little worried about heading home so soon as I had a 2 year old at home who would be difficult to stop from climbing on me, and that I was worried I'd end up lifting him and doing too much too soon...I had hoped that I'd be allowed to stay another night but they told me no...the operation was all smooth and I was healing well, so there was no reason to stay any longer.

So I packed up and headed home.

Two days later, I was back in hospital.

My scar had opened up a little and I had developed a nasty wound infection.

I'll never forget the pain I was was 10 times more painful than anything I'd felt after my first c section birth.

It took around 2 weeks for the infection to clear up - when I think back to that time all I remember is endless tears, having to be helped to everything from standing up from the toilet to getting in and out of the shower - every movement was agony.

I struggled to bond with my second baby, and I struggled with post natal depression - looking back, I feel that the infection and pain I was in had a lot to do with that.

I have just given birth to a third baby, again by c section, and this time I had to stay in hospital for 3 days because of issues with his feeding and weight gain - my recovery from the birth has been very smooth and painless, and 3 weeks on I am feeling almost completely back to full health.

So when I compare my births - do I think its coincidence that the one which was a huge struggle to recover from was the one with the shortest hospital stay?

Absolutely not.

A c section delivery is major surgery - and yet women are sent home 24 hours later, where they may be other young children, where there may be a complete lack of help or support (nobody asked me if I had help at home before sending me on my way) and just left to get on with it.

Any birth can have complications and be difficult to recover from - not every birth is a perfect textbook delivery and not every woman will feel rested and ready to get back to their daily life the very next day.

I worry that pushing women out of hospital before they feel ready could cause real damage - not only to their physical health but to their emotional and mental health, and their ability to bond with and care for their newborn children too.

If a woman expressly wants to return home quickly and feels she has support there, then great - by all means let them go home.

But not everybody does and is it really right or safe to be forcing them out so soon?

My own Mum had me via c section 34 years ago, and the standard hospital stay then was 10 days - the operation hasn't changed, womens bodies haven't changed - so how is it that we now need only 24 hours to recover from the same procedure?

A hospital has so many things that make those first hours after a c section birth easier - a bed that lowers and raises to a point that you feel comfortable getting in and out of without having to strain, a shower thats easy to step in and out of with a seat if you need to use it, a drop side crib that wheels right over to the bed so you don't need to strain to lift out your baby, meals and drinks delivered to you so that your energy is kept up.

Surely those things are what is going to enhance your recovery...not a couple of pre-op drinks? Surely giving your body that little bit of extra time to heal before getting back to everyday life is what's going to help?

I don't believe these enhanced recoveries to be best for us, and I don't believe the hospitals have our best interests at heart when they're sending us home as quickly as possible.

It's all a numbers game, but what is the real price of it all? 

How soon after giving birth did you leave hospital and did you feel that was right for you? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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  1. I had my first son 3 yrs ago by c section and stayed in 2 nights... I hated every second of it. To my delight when i had my 2nd son 9 months ago via c section I went home 24 hrs later even going before my prescription was ready so I could just take my baby home and recover with my new family of four.. The whole experience 2nd time round was better for me going home after one night... I'd have happily gone home that night if they would have let me..

    1. Ah I'm pleased your experience was better second time around. I think the key is that it needs to take individual circumstances into account...if a woman feels supported at home and ready to leave hospital then the choice should be there, but I think its so dangerous to force people out quickly as some women simply don't have the support at home x

  2. I've had two c-sections and I couldn't wait to get home. The being woken constantly and sharing a room with other people was so annoying. My second one was planned, as a result, I had made plans for that in terms of help with my other children etc. It is quite individual though as one woman next to me didn't want to go home after the three days and stayed one day longer. I'd like to have more say in it I think, rather than a one-size-fits-all kind of approach to it. Some women are ready to go home quickly, some aren't x

    1. Ah I hated it too, but the second experience terrified me and I was determined to insist on staying longer the third time! I ended up not needing to insist because of Sailor's feeding issues anyway but I was determined not to leave so soon that time!
      I definitely think women need to have more of a say in it and that it needs to be more based on individual circumstances x

  3. I stayed 12 hours with both natural births, that was too long for me I was begging them to discharge me out of six, hospitals feel like prisons more than anything else lol I hated it but I do think it should be individual to everyone, most people I know though felt there stay was too long and wanted to get discharged! I think the real shame is the lack of midwife visits after having a baby! x

    1. Ah definitely! I think they need to take into account that some people don't have family around to help out at home, and particularly when there are already other young children at home it can be hard going leaving so soon! x

  4. I definitely think that 24 hours is too little of time especially for c section. I have two sons born by natural birth with no complications and I stayed in the hospital for 2-3 days with both. At the time I lived in Italy. With my first son I was in the "special" section of the hospital for natural births with a big room, a kitchen for all the patients to share and a free pass to all the visitors I wanted. With the second one I went to the normal part and it was more chaotic for sure. I wanted to go home the next night, but they said it was better to wait till next day. I was quite frustrated, cause all had gone well, we were both healthy but it was good I stayed cause that night I had my first ever panic attack (I guess inside I was worried how I was going to cope with two small children). Now I'm expecting my third child and I live in Bulgaria, I've read that they keep you there for 4 days, which I hope not cause that's a little too much, but yeah I think 2 days is perfect and for c section even more would be better. I really can't understand how can they send moms home so quickly, c section moms have a fresh cut wound on their bellies! Do they send people home a day after removing the appendix or tonsils as well? I would be scared as hell if I had to go home so early after a c section :(

  5. Wow, I can't believe your hospital stays were so short, here in Ireland it's 5 nights for a straight forward c section, I was in for 6 nights after little man as I needed blood transfusions. It's horrible being in hospital for so long though, especially as you have no one to help you out with the baby at night like your partner would if your at home. would be great to find a happier balance.

  6. I had an assisted birth an I stayed in for 72 hours. I'm sure they would have sent me packing much sooner had I not been on IV antibiotics. It was horrendous to be honest, many of the midwives just callous and mean, there was two older senior midwives that were nice and that's it.

    I was there for three days and it for me was far too long, mainly because it is a horrible environment to be in. I do however think getting better in a physical sense takes a lot longer than 24 hours. And it is a lot easier to miss early warning signs of serious problems if you send new mums packing too soon. So in that sense short hospital stays can cause problems.


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