Women with unintended pregnancies take the shortest maternity leaves

May 5, 2014 by Kelly Blake, University of Maryland
Women with unintended pregnancies take the shortest maternity leaves
Dr. Rada K. Dagher is assistant professor of health services administration in the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Credit: Rada K. Dagher

Mothers in the United States who have unintended pregnancies return to work sooner after childbirth than mothers whose pregnancy was intended, according to a study led by Dr. Rada K. Dagher, assistant professor of health services administration in the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

This is the first study to examine pregnancy intention and return to work after . "We know that it's better for women to take time off after childbirth to take care of their physical and mental ," says Dr. Dagher, whose previous research showed that taking six months of maternity leave is optimal for reducing a woman's risk of postpartum depression. "Returning to work soon after childbirth may not be good for these women or for their children." The study is published in Women's Health Issues, a leading journal in women's healthcare and policy.

To reduce unintended pregnancies, Dagher supports policies to ensure that a woman has access to appropriate methods for delaying pregnancy until she is ready to have a baby. "The Affordable Care Act requirement for health plans to cover contraceptives at no cost to the consumer is an important part of the strategy to reduce unintended pregnancies," Dr. Dagher said. She also recommends that counsel all women and men who are at risk for unintended pregnancy about the most effective contraceptive methods.

The study findings also point to the need for policies that enable women to take longer maternity leaves. "Compared to with an intended pregnancy, mothers with an are not as emotionally and financially prepared and are less likely to receive paid maternity leave, suggesting that economic reasons may have forced them to return to paid work sooner," Dagher explains.

Only 41% of women in the study had access to paid maternity leave, and the average duration of leave taken was 7.64 weeks. There is no national paid-leave policy in the United States, and while the Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees, many women are not covered. Women in the U.S. return to paid work quickly after birth, with 69 percent of those surveyed returning within six months.

The study, which uses U.S. national data from the Listening to Mothers II survey, also found that 62 percent of all women surveyed reported some symptoms of depression after childbirth. An examination of the relationship between maternal depression and the length of revealed that depression did not have an effect on return to work for mothers with unintended pregnancies. However, among women with an intended pregnancy, depressed mothers return to paid work more quickly than nondepressed mothers. The authors suggest that depressed mothers may find that staying home with a newborn decreases their sense of control and paid work becomes more attractive, or that women who are forced to return to work quickly may feel depressed about having to do so because of their economic circumstances.

Leave from work after childbirth provides mothers time for emotional recovery and for bonding with the baby, and returning to sooner than desired may worsen depressive symptoms. Based on this and the findings of this study, the authors suggest that health care providers may want to advise on the optimum amount of leave to take after childbirth given their mental health state.

They also encourage primary care providers and policymakers to support and implement policies that increase access to and utilization of effective contraceptive methods.

Explore further: Longer maternity leaves lower women's risk of postpartum depression

More information: "Maternal Depression, Pregnancy Intention, and Return to Paid Work After Childbirth" was written by Rada K. Dagher, Sandra L. Hofferth and Yoonjoo Lee and published in Women's Health Issues, Volume 24, Issue 3, Pages e297–e303, May–June, 2014. www.whijournal.com/article/S10 … 4%2900034-6/abstract

Related Stories

Longer maternity leaves lower women's risk of postpartum depression

December 12, 2013
The more leave time from work that a woman takes after giving birth—up to six months—the better protected she will be from experiencing post-partum depression, according to a study led by Dr. Rada K. Dagher, assistant ...

No maternity leave for women using surrogates: EU top court

March 18, 2014
Women who use surrogate mothers to have a child do not have a legal right to maternity leave when the baby is born, the European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday.

Pregnant Maori teens let down by system despite positive health-seeking behaviour

May 2, 2014
A new study dispels the myth that young pregnant Māori women delay access to antenatal care in their first trimester.

Women in childbirth still being denied their human rights

June 19, 2013
New research shows despite more than 50 years of campaigning, too many mothers are still being denied their human rights in childbirth.

Abuse jeopardizes new mothers' mental health

April 28, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Ashley Pritchard, a Simon Fraser University doctoral student, is among four authors of a new research paper calling for closer monitoring of new mothers for mental health problems in light of their findings.

Women with unintended pregnancy are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression

May 7, 2013
Women with unintended pregnancy are four times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression at twelve months postpartum, suggests a new study published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Recommended for you

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.