Help New Moms Fight Depression!
New research suggests that women who take more time off after delivering a baby are less likely to be diagnosed with post-partum depression. The catch is, more time means at least six months of maternity leave. A majority of women in the United States go back to work relatively soon after giving birth; few take more than three months off.
According to statistics compiled by the American Psychological Association, about 13% of women develop post-partum depression. Among women who have already suffered a previous bout of post-partum depression, the risk of a subsequent bout rises to about 40%.
Post-partum depression is considered a serious mental health problem. It can interfere with a woman’s ability to care for her newborn. Symptoms echo those of classic so-called “major depression,” including: loss of interest or pleasure in life, sleep problems, irritability, anxiety, uncontrollable crying, withdrawal from friends and family, and even thoughts of doing harm to oneself or one’s baby.
The new study calls into question the American approach to the post-partum period. “Taking leave from work provides time for mothers to rest and recover from pregnancy and childbirth,” investigators wrote, in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. “Findings indicate that the current leave duration provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act, twelve weeks, may not be sufficient for mothers at risk for or experiencing postpartum depression.
K. Dagher, P. M. McGovern, B. E. Dowd. Maternity Leave Duration and Postpartum Mental and Physical Health: Implications for Leave Policies. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 2013; DOI: 10.1215/03616878-2416247