Women With Unplanned Pregnancies Take Shortest Maternity Leaves
When I had an unplanned pregnancy during my senior year of college, I knew that I wouldn't be doing motherhood in the strictest “traditional” sense.
I knew that some things about my pregnancy and my entrance into motherhood would be a little, well, different. I knew that there was an increased risk of my getting postpartum depression (which I did) and that I would have to learn to juggle school and a baby as a young mother.
What I didn't expect, however, was to join the unplanned-pregnancy mother ranks in taking a short maternity leave.
In a surprising new study, researchers at the University of Maryland have discovered that women with unplanned pregnancies actually take the shortest maternity leaves compared to their planned-pregnancy counterparts.
According to the study's leader, Dr. Rada K. Dagher, an assistant professor of health services administration at UMD, this study is the first of its kind to look specifically at the length of time taken for maternity leave. The study concluded that financial factors came into play most in regards to the women's decision to return to work more quickly, as women with unplanned pregnancies aren't usually as financially prepared to take on a newborn and take off work as mothers who planned their pregnancies.
Dagher points out that the study reveals the need for across-the-board implementation of better maternity-leave polices for all mothers, as the U.S. is one of the least supportive countries in the world in terms of providing access to maternity leave.
The study also showed that depressed mothers are more likely to return to work sooner, perhaps finding life at home with a newborn too out of control or too overwhelming to handle in the midst of a depressive episode. As unplanned pregnancy can increase the risk of postpartum depression, this is an important distinction to note, as it points out that work isn't always the solution for women facing postpartum depression; we need more comprehensive screening, awareness, and support for mothers suffering from PPD so that they can return to work when they are healed—both physically and mentally.
There is no one formula to determine the “right” time for a woman to return back to work, of course, but it is important that mothers can feel supported in determining that choice for themselves without pressure to return for outside reasons before they are ready. Personally, for me, with my first baby, I had no choice but to return to work right away, as I was the sole insurance provider, and without my husband being a stay-at-home dad (he was still in college) those first few weeks, I can't imagine how we would have made it.
How long was your maternity leave? Did you return to work sooner than you felt ready to?