New research published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, which used data from the from the University of Maryland School of Public Health, finds that maternity leave of up to six months is protective of postpartum depression.
The study looked at data from 800 women for their first postpartum year, derived from the Maternal Postpartum Health Study conducted by the Minnesota School of Public Health. This study cohort was composed of mostly white, married and middle class women.
The researchers, Dr. Rada K. Dagher and her colleagues, say there is a direct relationship between the length of maternity leave and the risk of postpartum depression. Women who were on maternity leave, at six weeks, 12 weeks and six months, had significantly lower postpartum depression scores compared to their peers who had returned to work.
After six months, the study showed an increase in the risk of postpartum depression for those women who stayed home. Dr. Rada K. Dagher and her colleagues say this suggests that women feel more engaged and productive in the workforce and a lack of efficacy at home while caring for an infant.
The United States scores low on family leave compared to other industrialized countries worldwide. Many nations truly care about family values and offer generous paid time off. The US Family Medical Leave Act allows for voluntary unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks. But many women can’t afford to take 12 weeks off without pay.
In addition, the Who Health Organization suggests that babies are breastfed for six months. This study supports the extension of leave for mom and baby health.