Outcomes of Postpartum Early Discharge, 1960–1986 A Comparative Review


  • Kathleen F. Norr Ph.D.,

    1. Kathleen Norr is a Research Associate in the Department of Maternal Child Nursing, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago, Box 6998, Chicago II, 60680.
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  • Karla Nacion B.S., C.N.M., M.S.

    1. Karla Nacion is a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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ABSTRACT: A review of all postpartum early discharge program outcomes in the United States published between 1960 and 1985 indicates that discharge under 48 hours after delivery has generally been safe for mothers and infants. The levels and types of morbidities did not appear to differ from those experienced with longer hospital stays. Infant readmissions and overall morbidity rates were consistently higher than the number of maternal readmissions and morbidity. The major infant morbidity was hyperbilirubinemia. Differences in identification and treatment of this single problem accounted for much of the variation in infant readmission rates among programs.

Expansion of postpartum early discharge based on these favorable results must proceed with caution. Nearly all reported outcomes were for programs with extensive prenatal preparation and postpartum follow-up, serving relatively advantaged middle-class populations. It is not clear that equally good outcomes would result from less intensive programs or those serving disadvantaged populations. More research is needed on the effectiveness of early discharge procedures, cost savings, and patient satisfaction.