Healthy Term Babies Safely Left the Hospital Sooner During COVID Pandemic

By Reuters Staff

December 13, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Healthy term infants left the hospital sooner after birth during the COVID pandemic than before the pandemic, with no increase in readmission within one week, according to data from 35 U.S. health systems.

"During the COVID-19 era, short infant birth hospitalization length of stay (LOS) was 51% more common than prepandemic," the study team reports in Pediatrics.

"This natural experiment suggests shorter birth hospitalization LOS among family- and clinician-selected, healthy term infants may be safe with respect to infant rehospitalization, although examination of additional outcomes is needed," write Dr. Heather Burris of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and colleagues.

They analyzed data on more than 202,000 healthy term-born infants - 57,110 from the COVID-19 era (March 1 to August 31, 2020) and 145,275 from three pre-pandemic eras (March 1 to August 31, 2017, 2018, 2019). Short birth hospitalization LOS was defined as less than two days for vaginal birth and less than three days for cesarean birth.

They found a substantial increase in short birth LOS in the COVID era, increasing from 28.5% to 43.0% for all healthy term births (vaginal: 25.6% to 39.3%; cesarean: 40.1% to 61.0%).

Despite shorter birth LOS during COVID, infant re-admissions within seven days of birth discharge decreased slightly during the pandemic (1.2% to 1.1%), the researchers report.

"Further study of mitigating factors such as home services, telemedicine visits, and other supports that may have changed during the pandemic are warranted. Additionally, investigation of the pandemic's impacts on other infant and maternal outcomes (is) critical before changing birth hospitalization policy," they say.

The pandemic significantly changed healthcare delivery across all settings. The current findings suggest that "shared decision-making between families and clinicians, as was likely the case during COVID-19, resulted in safe earlier discharge with respect to infant hospitalization," they add.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online December 10, 2021.