A Dangerous Juggling Act
A recent study out by the Childbirth Connection (a non-profit organization with a goal of improving maternity care) paints a troubling picture about the factors that can trigger postpartum depression. Many are issues I've blogged about here although not in connection with postpartum. Not surprisingly the study found that the primary reason for mothers returning to work earlier than they wanted to after giving birth, was for financial reasons. A whopping 81% said they coudln't afford to stay home. About half ( 48%) of the mothers surveyed said they had not stayed home as long as they wanted to. I've blogged several times about the need for the U.S. to get with it and mandate longer maternity leaves such as those in Europe and other parts of the world. When new moms are forced to go back to work because they have to, it not only causes resentment, but can take an emotional toll. That, in turn, can easily morph into postpartum depression. That's a dangerous and sad road to go down.
We think we, as a country, are so progressive. We pride ourselves on giving women the same opportunities as men (remember 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling). But actions speak louder than words. And in truth, we are antiquated in our maternity leave policies, not stopping to take measure of the health ramifications for the baby and the mother. When a mother returns to work there are so many factors that contribute to stress: the transition of, and necessary adjustment to, being away from the baby, making childcare arrangements and worrying that no one can care for your child like you, lack of support in the workplace for pumping, and the list goes on. The stress can manifest itself in postpartum depression.
It's time to take all this into consideration. In fact, it's way overdue. It's time for our policy makers to understand that juggling returning to work after giving birth can come at an emotional cost. We need to invest in new mothers. The U.S. should not only mandate full paid maternity leaves but do so for a substantial period of time. The family leave act allows for 12 weeks off but it's not necessarily paid time off. Let's put pressure on our lawmakers to really pony up and create a law that puts the health of new moms and their babies first.