Objective: Our purpose was to determine whether length of hospital stay after vaginal delivery as determined by the discharging physician is associated with rehospitalizations or increased outpatient contacts by mothers and neonates and to assess the impact of home health care visits.
Study design: An inception cohort study of all rehospitalizations and outpatient contacts of mothers and neonates after vaginal delivery at St. Joseph Hospital, Denver, Colorado, was done from January 1, 1994, to September 30, 1995. All Kaiser Permanente mother-neonate pairs in which the delivery was vaginal (excluding those with multiple gestations or birth weight < 2500 g) were included. Length of initial hospital stay was divided into three time periods: < or = 24 hours, 25 to 48 hours, and > 48 hours. The Colorado Kaiser Permanente Perinatal Database was used to identify perinatal and demographic factors that might have increased health care use. Additional information was sought in administrative databases, bill records, and inpatient charts. Mothers were followed up for 6 weeks and neonates for 28 days after delivery. Home care visits were provided to more than half the mothers and neonates by means of a standardized protocol. The main outcome measures were rehospitalizations and outpatient visits for mothers and neonate, controlling for home care visits.
Results: A total of 4323 mother-neonate pairs were identified. For the mothers, a longer initial hospital stay (> 48 hours) was significantly associated with both readmission (P < .01) and increased outpatient care use (P = .01) in the 6-week postpartum period. Thirty-five mothers (.81%) were rehospitalized by 6 weeks. Maternal factors associated with increased outpatient contacts were preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and instrument delivery. Sixty-seven neonates (1.55%) were readmitted to the hospital. Home care visits reduced the need for both readmissions and outpatient visits.
Conclusions: For mothers in this cohort a longer initial hospital stay was significantly associated with hospital readmission and increased outpatient care in the postpartum period. Further analysis revealed that mothers with recognized potential and observed problems were rarely discharged in < or = 24 hours. We did not find statistically significant problems among neonates that were related to the length of their initial hospital stay. Those neonates receiving home care were less likely to require hospital readmission and less likely to seek outpatient care. It is unlikely that a single discharge policy will be appropriate for all mothers and neonates.