The more maternity leave a woman takes, the better her chances of avoiding postnatal depression.
So says US experts, after studying a group of women returning to work – some of them as soon as 6 weeks after giving birth.
Women in the US often return to work before their babies turn 3 months old – something that’s certainly not the norm in the UK. And “we found that women who return to work sooner than 6 months after childbirth have an increased risk of postpartum depressive symptoms,” says Dr Rada Dagher, from the University of Maryland, who led the study.
Dr Dagher found that women who were still on maternity leave at 6 weeks, 12 weeks and 6 months had a lower instance of postnatal depression than women with babies of the same age who had already returned to work (see graph).
In the UK, every working woman has the legal right to take up to 12 months maternity leave and be able to return to the same job. These findings could be something to consider, though, for those who are hoping to take advantage of the Government’s proposed scheme to allow parents to share maternity/paternity leave in their baby’s first year.