Early discharge of healthy newborns during the pandemic

During the first six months of the pandemic, healthy newborns were discharged from hospitals faster, often after one midnight. In a new study in Pediatrics, Sara Handley and colleagues find that this shorter length of stay did not increase infant readmissions in the first week, suggesting that earlier discharge can be done safely.

Parent at home with newborn in their arms.

The authors analyzed electronic health records on healthy, full-term newborns across 35 health systems, and compared data on infants born between March 1 to August 31, 2020 with those born at the same time of year in 2017, 2018, and 2019. They compared the percentage of newborns with shorter lengths of stay (defined as less than 2 midnights for vaginal births, and less than 3 midnights for cesarean births) and rehospitalization rates within seven days of discharge.

Their results were reassuring. During the pandemic, 43% of all healthy, full-term newborns had shorter hospital stays, up from 28.5% in earlier years. Despite the increase in shorter stays, infant rehospitalizations after seven days decreased slightly during the pandemic, going from 1.2% to 1.1%. This suggests that the shorter length of hospital stay was safe, at least for these healthy, full-term infants who were selected by the family and clinician to go home early.

This story is by Christine Weeks. Read more at Penn LDI.