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A Return to Drive-Thru Deliveries?

I'll never forget when I told a friend about my c-section and she nearly exploded with envy. It was 1994 and what she coveted wasn't surgery -- it was my three days in the hospital. She'd delivered her son just before midnight and been booted out the next morning on orders from her insurance company.

I thought of her recently when a study by Harvard researchers concluded that short maternity stays were not necessarily harmful to infants. This was huge news because in 1996, urged on by women and medical groups, Congress essentially banned these "drive-through deliveries" by requiring insurers to cover 48 hours of hospital care after vaginal deliveries and 96 hours after cesareans.

But let's get one thing straight: The study doesn't endorse putting unwilling moms onto the street. What it suggests, says principal author Jeanne M. Madden, Ph.D., is that women should feel comfortable going home before the 48 hour deadline if they so choose -- and if they have a health-care program that provides adequate home support. As required by law, women in the study who went home early received a visit from a nurse within a few days of discharge.

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