Background: The impact of reductions in postpartum length of stay have been widely reported, but factors influencing length of hospital stay after vaginal birth have received less attention. The study purpose was to compare the sociodemographic characteristics and readiness for discharge of new mothers and their newborns at 3 discharge time intervals, and to determine which variables were associated with postpartum length of stay.
Methods: The study sample comprised 1,192 mothers who were discharged within 2 postpartum days after uncomplicated vaginal birth at a tertiary perinatal center in the midwestern United States. The sample was divided into 3 postpartum length-of-stay groups: group 1 (18–30 hr), group 2 (31–42 hr), and group 3 (43–54 hr). Sociodemographic and readiness-for-discharge data were collected by self-report and from a computerized hospital information system. Measures of readiness for discharge included perceived readiness (single item and Readiness for Discharge After Birth Scale), documented maternal and neonatal clinical problems, and feeding method.
Results: Compared with other groups, the longest length-of-stay group was older; of higher socioeconomic status and education; and with more primiparous, breastfeeding, white, married mothers who were living with the baby’s father, had adequate home help, and had a private payor source. This group also reported greater readiness for discharge, but their newborns had more documented clinical problems during the postbirth hospitalization. In logistic regression modeling, earlier discharge was associated with young age, multiparity, public payor source, low socioeconomic status, lack of readiness for discharge, bottle-feeding, and absence of a neonatal clinical problem.
Conclusions: Sociodemographic chracteristics and readiness for discharge (clinical and perceived) were associated with length of postpartum hospital stay. Length of stay is an outcome of a complex interface between patient, provider, and payor influences on discharge timing that requires additional study. Including perceived readiness for discharge in clinical discharge criteria will add an important dimension to assessment of readiness for discharge after birth.