With many families struggling financially in this economy, it is increasingly rare to find a household where one parent stays home with the kids. Even new mothers are not always taking the typical three-month maternity leave, since not all jobs pay new mothers for that time off.
However, a new study suggests that this might not be best for new mothers’ mental health.
In fact, the 12-week maternity leave that most employers offer (not necessarily paid) might not even be enough to ensure that new mothers won’t be at risk for postpartum depression, according to the study published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.
During the first year after giving birth, the authors of the study suggested that new mothers need up to six months off work if possible. Women are at higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression during their first year after giving birth, according to a Medical Xpress article.
Researchers studied over 800 women, according to the article. They did follow-ups with the women at six weeks, 12 weeks, six months and 12 months.
They found that women who were still on maternity leave up to the six-month mark had lower scores of postpartum depression than the other women who were back at work. The researchers did find though at 12 months, women who were back at work had lower scores than women on maternity leave.
Dayna Kurtz, a licensed master social worker, said in an email that she is not surprised by the results because motherhood is a major life adjustment, yet most people don’t recognize all the changes that are involved.
“This often results in women needing to return to work either earlier than they desire to or are prepared to do,” Kurtz said. “Longer maternity leaves enable women to adjust to the transition in a more gradual, healthy and lasting way.”
She said that besides having shortened maternity leaves, there are other factors that can increase the risk of struggling with postpartum depression. These risk factors could include a family or personal history of any type of depression, an unplanned pregnancy, a weak support system, sleep deprivation and hormonal changes.