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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