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    Longer maternity leave reduces depression risk


    Women who take maternity leave for 6 or more months had a lower risk of developing postpartum depressive symptoms than their counterparts who return to work more quickly, according to a study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.

    Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health looked at data collected from more than 800 women aged 18 years or older, who delivered children in 3 Minnesota hospitals. The women were interviewed in person during their initial hospital stay and were subsequently interviewed via telephone at
    6 weeks (n = 716), 12 weeks (n = 661), 6 months
    (n = 625), and 12 months (n = 575). Depressive symptoms, measured by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale; mental and physical health, measured by the SF-12 Health survey; and maternal childbirth-related symptoms were measured at each time interval.

    Using a 2-stage least squares analysis, the investigators found that the relationship between leave duration and postpartum depressive symptoms formed a U shape, with increased leave being associated with a lower rate of depressive symptoms until 6 months postpartum.

    The authors concluded that the leave duration—
    12 weeks unpaid—provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act may not be enough for women at risk of postpartum depression. Indeed, 7% of the studied women had returned to work by 6 weeks; 46% returned by 12 weeks; and 87% had returned by 6 months. The United States is currently 1 of only 3 countries that do not provide paid maternity leave; Papua New Guinea and Swaziland are the other 2 countries.


    Dagher RK, Mcgovern PM, Dowd BE. Maternity leave duration and postpartum mental and physical health: Implications for leave policies. J Health Polit Policy Law. 2013; ePub ahead of print.

    Miranda Hester
    Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.


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