Dec. 12, 2013 —
Science Daily/University of Maryland
The more leave time from work that a woman takes after giving birth -- up to six months -- the better protected she will be from experiencing post-partum depression, according to a study led by Dr. Rada K. Dagher, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
"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," Dr. Dagher said. "But our study showed that women who return to work sooner than six months after childbirth have an increased risk of postpartum depressive symptoms." The study is published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.
The first year after childbirth presents a high risk of depression for women, with about 13 percent of all mothers experiencing postpartum depression, with debilitating symptoms similar to clinical depression. This study is the first to investigate the relationship between duration of maternity leave and a woman's postpartum depressive symptoms over the course of the entire year after childbirth. It measured symptoms using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, a widely used depression screening tool, which has been adapted and validated in many languages.
The study concludes 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" and that future leave policy debates should take into consideration the postpartum health of mothers. Moreover, "employers should consider providing more generous leaves than the 12 weeks of unpaid leave granted by the FMLA through expanding the duration of leave given or providing paid leave or both," urged Dr. Dagher.