Maternity leave can officially begin from 11 weeks before a baby’s due date and now research has shown that there’s good reason for this.
Women who work beyond their eighth month of pregnancy have babies who weigh half a pound less than women who stopped work between six and eight months, according to research compiled by the University of Essex.
The data from three major studies, two in the UK and one in the US, found that carrying on working during late pregnancy had a similar effect on a baby’s weight to smoking while pregnant, reports the Guardian.
Mothers under the age of 24 were not affected by working longer but the effect on older mothers was more significant. Stopping work early also proved more beneficial to women with less educational qualifications, suggesting those doing physically demanding work suffered more from working into late pregnancy.
Low birth weight has been linked to health and development problems in childhood.
Professor Marco Francesconi, one of the authors of the study, suggested the Government should consider persuading employers to offer more flexible maternity leave to mothers who needed a longer break before rather than after their babies were born.
The study also suggested that British women were tending to work for longer during pregnancy.