Maternity Leave Means Fewer C-Sections

Photo: A newborn is breast fed

Mothers are more likely to
establish breastfeeding if they
take maternity leave; © SXC

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

"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”, said Sylvia Guendelman who led the two studies. “For babies, it is known that breastfeeding protects them from infection and may decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, allergies and obesity.” According to the studies, taking maternity leave may make good health sense, as well as good economic sense.

For the first study, the researchers analysed data from 447 women who worked full-time, 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.

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 on maternity leave and breastfeeding used data from 770 full-time working mothers. 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 after delivery on average.

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 twelve weeks of maternity leave had a two-fold greater risk of failing to establish breastfeeding.; Source: University of California - Berkeley