Approximately 17% of new mothers and their babies are prematurely discharged from the hospital, according to a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers polled 4,300 new mothers, their obstetricians and pediatricians to determine whether hospital discharges were occurring at appropriate times. Eleven percent of new mothers said their discharge came before they were prepared to leave, 5% of pediatricians said babies in their care were discharged too early, and 1% of obstetricians said discharges of their patients had run afoul of good medical judgment. The Newborns and Mothers Health Protection Act of 1996 established federal requirements allowing for minimal hospital stays in response to unsafe discharges prompted by managed care companies. The law allows for minimum stays of 48 hours following a vaginal delivery and 96 hours for Cesarean deliveries. Researchers caution, however, that arbitrary discharge times set by Congress do not necessarily allow for the practice of good medicine or even good judgment in every case. They advise that clinical decision-making regarding discharge is subjective, and should take a number of complicated variables and personal perspectives into account.
Study authors identified the following factors as typically contributing to a new mother’s reluctance to be discharged:
- being a first-time mother;
- receiving “inadequate” prenatal care;
- the mother having a chronic disease;
- delivering during the “nonroutine” hours between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.;
- receiving only a modest amount of parenting education while in the hospital;
- intending to breastfeed;
- having a newborn with health problems in the nursery;
- and being African-American.
Previously on the D.C. Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
- New mothers require frequent screening for depression
- ACOG urges against Paxil during pregnancy
- One in eight babies is born prematurely
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