Study suggests paid family leave may reduce postpartum depression and infant deaths

(Ohio) – A new study published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry dives into the impact paid maternity leave may have on the mental and physical health of mom and baby.

Postpartum depression affects up to 20 percent of mothers in the U.S. and 10 percent of partners. Researchers explained that despite women representing 47% of the current U.S. labor force, only 16% of all employed American workers have access to paid parental leave through their workplace. Additionally, as many as 23% of employed mothers return to work within ten days of giving birth, because of their inability to pay living expenses without income.

For decades, national paid maternity leave policies of 12 weeks or more have been established in every industrialized country except the United States, researchers added.

Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states over 72 percent of mothers work part or full time with nearly 50 percent of families with two parents working.

Researchers explained, “we reviewed recent studies on the possible effects of paid maternity leave on the mental and physical health of mothers and children. We found that paid maternity leave is associated with beneficial effects on (1) the mental health of mothers and children, including a decrease in postpartum maternal depression and intimate partner violence, and improved infant attachment and child development, (2) the physical health of mothers and children, including a decrease in infant mortality and in mother and infant rehospitalizations, and an increase in pediatric visit attendance and timely administration of infant immunizations, and (3) breastfeeding, with an increase in its initiation and duration.”

They concluded that the United States is facing “a clear, evidence-based mandate to create a national paid maternity leave policy.” Researchers recommended a national paid maternity leave policy of at least 12 weeks.



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