Longer Maternity Leave Reduces Postpartum Depression Risk: Study

By Vishakha Sonawane, Parent Herald December 14, 08:45 am

Longer maternity leave can reduce postpartum depression, a latest study from University of Maryland School of Public Health shows.

In the US, the federal law grants up to 12 weeks (about 3 months) of maternity leave. However, the study found that new mothers might need at least six months before resuming to work.

The researchers said that around 13 percent of the mothers experienced postpartum depression in the first year after giving birth.

For the study, the researchers followed over 800 women for first year post-pregnancy. They calculated the postpartum depression levels by using The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and collected responses such as, "In the past 7 days, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things." Responses ranged from "as much as I always could" to "not at all," reported Medical Daily.

The results found that around 7 percent mothers joined their job in just six weeks, 46 percent by 12 weeks and 87 percent by six months. The mothers who joined work within short period of time after giving birth had higher levels of postpartum depression.

Although, the researchers found link between longer maternity leave and postpartum depression, they did not establish cause-and-effect relationship between the two.

"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.

On a concluding note, the researchers stated 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 depression."

The researchers also suggested that maternity leave policy should be taken into consideration. Furthermore, the mothers who do not come under the Family and Medical Leave Act or cannot afford to take unpaid leave have to resume to their work faster. This may lead to various health issues, the researchers warned.

The study is published in the 'Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.'

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