After Your Baby's Birth - Leaving Hospital

Did you give birth in a hospital? How keen were you to hang around? Unless you're royalty, or a film star, hospitals really aren't that comfortable, relaxing or restful. Especially maternity wards.

Surrounded by squalling babies, screaming, overtired women and overworked nurses isn't anybody's idea of a good time.

So I wasn't altogether surprised when a Sunday Times investigation discovered that almost 33,000 women were discharged after giving birth between 11pm and 6am in the past three years.

There's a sense of 'shock, horror' about these statistics – the implication being that helpless new mums are being booted out of hospital in the wee small hours, probably still in their nighties, being forced to find their way home by moonlight.

In fact, the Sunday Times did actually locate a couple of women who say they were asked to leave in the middle of the night when they didn't want to, which clearly isn't on.

But something tells me that the vast majority of these 33,000 women left voluntarily, of their own accord, sprinting so fast away from the wards that you couldn't see them for dust.

What's more, most of these women probably wanted to leave 12 hours previously, but were made to hang about for endless checks, form-filling and general faffing so that by the time it had all been completed, it was, indeed, the middle of the night.

It's not the fault of the people who work there, who are mostly kind, helpful and incredibly hard-working - it's the fault of the system.

My first experience of a maternity ward was not fun. After an induced labour of more than 24 hours, and eventually, after a LOT of screaming, an epidural, I finally gave birth at around 11pm.

Off down to the ward with my wobbly legs I went, to find five other women with tiny babies which didn't sleep either. Nurses had to bring meds round every six minutes or so.

Hospital beds are about as comfortable as sleeping on a giraffe. We were bombarded with Bounty packs and photography offers. And the girl in the bed opposite had a string of noisy visitors, all queuing up to see little baby Mondeo (I'm not even joking).

Despite being keen to leave that morning, we had forms to fill, and more forms, and a breastfeeding counsellor who was going to come but never did, and eventually we begged and pleaded and packed our bags and finally were allowed to leave at around 5pm.

The second time, I was getting out of there as quickly as possible. In hospital at around 6pm, baby born at around 8pm, out of there by midnight. It would have been sooner, except we did cord blood donation, and then they insisted I should eat something, and it took them a LONG time to scour the hospital for a vegetarian sandwich.


When other mums tell me their birthing horror stories, I don't think 'OW' or 'that must have been really scary' (well, I do, a bit), mainly I think 'OH MY GOD you had to stay in hospital for FIVE DAYS? How did you DO that?'


Maternity wards are clearly understaffed – but they're also short of beds. Which is a bit of a problem, because they obviously can't get women who want to leave through the system quickly enough, in order to free up the beds for women who need them. Perhaps if they had more midwives, they wouldn't need more beds? Although more of both would be great...

It's the midwives we should be listening to, obviously. The most sensible comment in the entire Sunday Times article came from Louise Silverton, director of midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) who told the newspaper:

"If mothers are happy to leave hospital during the night to the comfort of her own home, then there is no problem with that," she said. "But there are not enough midwives, and not enough beds, and we are seeing some women going home before they are comfortable with the prospect of looking after their baby."

The RCM says maternity care service have reached 'a make or break point'. Which is pretty darned scary. And probably part of the reason why maternity wards are such hellish places.

So of course nobody should be thrown out in the middle of the night if they don't feel ready to leave - but I bet most of these women couldn't wait to get out of hospital!

What do you think – were you asked to leave hospital before you were ready, or were you kept hanging around, desperate to get home?