The Truth About Postpartum Employment

The not-for-profit organization known as Childbirth Connection published the results of its latest survey on expectant and postpartum moms in 2008. The report is called New Mothers Speak Out, National Survey Results Highlight Women's Postpartum Experiences. This landmark publication is a compilation of the results of two national surveys on pregnant women and a follow up on the same women postpartum through the first 18 months after birth.

The results of these surveys showed that women are receiving very little in the way of paid maternity leave benefits. Also, women in the postpartum period are facing many employment challenges at once. Here's the breakdown:

Only Half

Of those women not self-employed, 40% reported their employers gave them paid maternity leave benefits. Out of this number, 50% were full-time workers and 14% were part-time employees. Among those moms who received their paid maternity benefits, only half received 100% of their pay.

This means that out of all women employed full-time during their pregnancies, 23% got at least 6 weeks of full pay as maternity benefits, while 38% received a minimum of 6 weeks of at least half their pay. Not quite 3 in every 10 postpartum moms (29%) reported full-time employment. Postpartum mothers working part-time were represented by 14% of the participants.

Postpartum working mothers tended to have only one child and most of them are single, and living with a partner. One-third of the women employed during their pregnancies were back at work by 6 weeks postpartum and 84% had returned to work by 12 weeks after birth.

Not Enough

Almost half of (48%) the mothers who went back to work said they hadn't stayed home as long as they'd wished. Most women (81%) said they went back to work because they just couldn't take any more time off. On average, both working mothers and women on maternity leave stated their ideal amount of maternity leave as 7 months, while 60% of the moms thought 6 months or longer would be the perfect amount of maternity leave.

These figures present quite a contrast to the mere 1% of working moms, working for others, who worked throughout their pregnancies outside of their homes and received around four months of full pay after their births.

Going back to work presented many challenges to these moms. A majority (79%) said that being away from their babies was a major or minor difficulty in acclimating to the workplace. Other hassles included childcare arrangements (50%), breastfeeding (37%), level of support from partner or spouse (36%), and a dearth of support within the workplace arena for new moms (29%).

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