Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Studies link maternity leave with fewer C-sections and increased breastfeeding

05.01.2009
Two new studies led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, suggest that taking maternity leave before and after the birth of a baby is a good investment in terms of health benefits for both mothers and newborns.

One study found that women who started their leave in the last month of pregnancy were less likely to have cesarean deliveries, while another found that new mothers were more likely to establish breastfeeding the longer they delayed their return to work.

Both papers were part of the Juggling Work and Life During Pregnancy study, funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration and led by Sylvia Guendelman, professor of maternal and child health at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. The research takes a rare look into whether taking maternity leave can affect health outcomes in the United States.

"In the public health field, we'd like to decrease the rate of C-sections (cesarean deliveries) and increase the rate of breastfeeding," said Guendelman. "C-sections are really a costly procedure, leading to extended hospital stays and increased risks of complications from surgery, as well as longer recovery times for the mother. For babies, it is known that breastfeeding protects them from infection and may decrease the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), allergies and obesity. What we're trying to say here is that taking maternity leave may make good health sense, as well as good economic sense."

The study on the use of antenatal leave - time off before delivery with the expectation of returning to the employer after giving birth - and the rate of C-sections is the first examination of birth outcomes in U.S. working women, the researchers said. It will appear in the January/February print edition of the journal Women's Health Issues.

The researchers analyzed data from 447 women who worked full-time in the Southern California counties of Imperial, Orange and San Diego, comparing those who took leave after the 35th week of pregnancy with those who worked throughout the pregnancy to delivery. Only women who gave birth to single babies with no congenital abnormalities were included in the analysis. They adjusted for sociodemographic factors such as income, age and type of occupation, as well as for various health measures such as high blood pressure, body mass index, amount of self-reported stress and average number of hours of sleep at night.

Using a combination of post-delivery telephone interviews and prenatal and birth records, the researchers found that women who took leave before they gave birth were almost four times less likely to have a primary C-section as women who worked through to delivery.

The study authors pointed out that the United States falls behind most industrialized countries in its support for job-protected paid maternity leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides for only unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks surrounding the birth or adoption of a child.

The bulk of studies on leave-taking and health outcomes from other countries suggest that taking leave prior to birth can be beneficial. The authors point to a macroanalysis of 17 countries in Europe that linked failure to take such leave with low birthweight and infant mortality. Rates of pre-term delivery were lower among female factory workers in France if the women took antenatal leave, and a study conducted in several industrialized countries found that paid leave, but not unpaid leave, significantly decreased low birthweight rates.

According to the U.S. Census, among working women who had their first birth between 2001 and 2003, only 28 percent took leave from their jobs before giving birth while an additional 22 percent quit their jobs. Twenty-six percent of women took no leave before birth.

"We don't have a culture in the United States of taking rest before the birth of a child because there is an assumption that the real work comes after the baby is born," said Guendelman. "People forget that mothers need restoration before delivery. In other cultures, including Latino and Asian societies, women are really expected to rest in preparation for this major life event."

The authors added that financial need may also deter women from taking leave in the last month of pregnancy. Only five states - California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island - and the territory of Puerto Rico offer some form of paid pregnancy leave, and none offer full replacement of the woman's salary.

The study on maternity leave and breastfeeding is in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. Using data from 770 full-time working mothers in Southern California, researchers assessed whether maternity leave predicted breastfeeding establishment, defined in this study as breastfeeding for at least 30 days after delivery. Phone interviews were conducted 4.5 months, on average, after delivery.

In this study, women who had returned to work by the time of the interview took on average 10.3 weeks of maternity leave. Overall, 82 percent of mothers established breastfeeding within the first month after their babies were born. Among women who established breastfeeding, 65 percent were still breastfeeding at the time of the interview.

Researchers found that women who took less than six weeks of maternity leave had a four-fold greater risk of failure to establish breastfeeding compared with women who were still on maternity leave at the time of the interview. Women who took six to 12 weeks of maternity leave had a two-fold greater risk of failing to establish breastfeeding.

Having a managerial position or a job with autonomy and a flexible work schedule was linked with longer breastfeeding duration in the study. After 30 days, managers had a 40 percent lower chance of stopping breastfeeding, while those with an inflexible work schedule had a 50 percent higher chance of stopping.

Overall, the study found that returning to work within 12 weeks of delivery had a greater impact on breastfeeding establishment for women in non-managerial positions, with inflexible jobs or who reported high psychosocial distress, including serious arguments with a spouse or partner and unusual money problems.

"The findings suggest that if a woman postpones her return to work, she'll increase her chances of breastfeeding success, especially if she's got a job where she's on the clock and has less discretion with her time," said Guendelman. "Also, women who are in jobs where they have more authority may feel more empowered with how they use their time."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be breastfed for at least the first year of life, and exclusively so for the first four to six months.

According to the AAP, increased breastfeeding has the potential for decreasing annual health costs in the U.S. by $3.6 billion and decreasing parental employee absenteeism, the environmental burden for disposal of formula cans and bottles, and energy demands for production and transport of formula.

The study authors noted that just having maternity leave benefits offered by an employer was not helpful in breastfeeding establishment unless the leave was actually used, indicating the importance of encouraging the use of maternity leave and making it economically feasible to take it.

"These new studies suggest that making it feasible for more working mothers to take maternity leave both before and after birth is a smart investment," said Guendelman.

Sarah Yang | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.berkeley.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>