Birth rights

OECD Observer

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Hospital stays are getting shorter, and concerns are being raised in some OECD countries that mothers are being sent home too soon after giving birth, the latest OECD Health Data shows.

In 2000, the average length of stay in OECD hospitals for a normal delivery was four days. But there were striking variations between countries in the amount of time spent in hospital. Women in Canada, New Zealand and the United States spend two days in maternity care, while in Poland and Austria new mothers stay in hospital on average for almost six days.

The number of women dying when giving birth has also fallen in the past decade, with the average number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births falling from 14.2 in 1990 to 10.1 in 2000. Infant mortality rates have also fallen, from 11.1 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 7.1 in 2000. In Poland, infant mortality fell from 19.4 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 8.1 in 2000, while in Canada it fell from 6.8 to 5.3 and in the United States from 9.2 to 6.9.

Birth is not the only area for which hospital stays are shorter. The average length of stay in hospital for other reasons is also falling in OECD countries, as a result of less invasive surgical treatment and efforts to control costs. The average length of stay for acute hospital care in OECD countries fell to 7.0 days in 2000 from 8.8 days in 1990.

OECD Health Data 2003 is available as a quadrilingual CD-ROM with free Internet updates from the OECD online bookshop at:

©OECD Observer No 238, July 2003

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