-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Dec. 13, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Having a longer
maternity leave reduces a woman's risk of postpartum depression,
new research shows.
The findings suggest that the maximum 12 weeks of maternity
leave given to American mothers under federal law may be
inadequate, according to the University of Maryland
"In the United States, most working women are back to work soon after giving birth, with the majority not taking more than three months of leave," study leader Dr. Rada Dagher said in a university news release.
"But our study showed that women who return to work sooner than six months after childbirth have an increased risk of postpartum depressive symptoms," added Dagher, an assistant professor of health services administration at the School of Public Health.
In the year after giving birth, about 13 percent of mothers
experience postpartum depression, which can cause serious symptoms
similar to clinical depression.
This study included more than 800 women in Minnesota who were
followed for a year after they gave birth. About 7 percent of the
mothers went back to work within six weeks, 46 percent by 12 weeks,
and 87 percent by six months.
Women who were still on maternity leave at each of those time
points had lower postpartum depression scores than those who had
returned to work, according to the findings published online Dec. 4
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.
The researchers concluded that "the current leave duration
provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act, 12 weeks, may not be
sufficient for mothers at risk for or experiencing postpartum
Future discussions about maternity leave policy should take into
consideration the health of mothers after they give birth, the
study authors added.
They also noted that many women are not covered by the Family
and Medical Leave Act or cannot afford to take unpaid leave and
have to return to work sooner that what may ideal for their health
after giving birth.
Although the study found an association between longer maternity
leave and less likelihood of postpartum depression in women, it did
not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about
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