The national president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Dr Michael Gannon, warns that the trend for early discharge from hospital – sometimes just a few hours after a baby is born – is having long-lasting, negative consequences.
“Can do better”
“It’s very simply a cost-saving exercise. Not only have they had a long pregnancy and the ordeal of labour, but we are then sending them home to look after their baby.”
He urged a rethink of how we care for women and babies in this “fourth trimester”.
“We have seen a reduction in length of stay in public hospitals and even private maternity units over the years. As someone who has delivered thousands of babies over the years I have great sympathy and compassion for the difficulties that can occur once returning home,” Dr Gannon told The Guardian.
“Surely the fourth richest country in the world can do better than send women home four hours after their babies are born,” he said.
Mums are particularly vulnerable in these early days of parenting, and being sent home with a new baby and little support can spark a challenging chain of events.
Dr Gannon says problems with breastfeeding can be a direct result of leaving hospital too early. He also warned that rushing mums home quickly to free up beds may contribute to post-natal depression and is putting kids at a disadvantage from the get-go.
“If we are really serious about post-natal depression prevention, and we should be, if we are serious about supporting women in breastfeeding, and we should be, if we are serious about giving our children the best possible start in life, then this trend surely has to stop.”
The AMA president has ongoing concerns about how new mums are being cared for. He told the ABC he would like to hear more from women about their experiences of early hospital discharge after having their babies.
“We need a bit more compassion and care in looking after women who have given birth to babies,” Dr Gannon said.