Paid maternity leave has mental and physical health benefits for mothers and children

March 09, 2020

March 9, 2020 - Paid maternity leave has major mental and physical health benefits for mothers and children - including reduced rates of postpartum depression and infant mortality, according to a report in the March/April issue of Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

"Given the substantial mental and physical health benefits associated with paid leave, as well as favorable results from studies on its economic impact, the United States is facing a clear, evidence-based mandate to create a national paid maternity leave policy," comments lead author Maureen Sayres Van Niel, MD, a reproductive psychiatrist in Cambridge, Mass. "We recommend a national paid maternity leave policy of at least 12 weeks for all mothers."

Studies Show Range of Public Health Benefits of Paid Maternity Leave

The authors analyzed recent national and international studies on the effects of paid maternity leave on the health of mothers and children. "For decades, national paid maternity leave policies of 12 weeks or more have existed in every industrialized country except the United States," according to Dr. Van Niel. "In this review, we show that serious health consequences can occur for women and children in this country without such a policy."

Focusing on 26 experimental or quasi-experimental studies, the review highlights the public health benefits of paid maternity leave in several areas: The authors also cite economic impact studies showing "no substantial negative economic or employment consequences of paid maternal leave." Paid leave also has individual and societal benefits, including labor force attachment, wage stability, and decreased use of public assistance.

The review also highlights a "troubling" disparity: "The United States has a two-tiered system of paid maternity leave: women with moderate-to-high family incomes can more often afford to stay at home with their infants for 12 or more weeks, whereas women with low family incomes cannot afford to do so and must often return to work shortly after giving birth."

"In light of the increasing data that paid leave offers substantial benefits to the health of mothers and children, we recommend that the United States develop a national paid maternity leave policy that would allow all mothers sufficient time to be home with their infants after the birth or arrival of the child, regardless of their employer or socioeconomic status," states Dr. Van Niel. The authors hope the evidence in their review will support ongoing efforts to enact a national paid family leave policy, such as the proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act currently in Congress.

"Many businesses recognize that paid family leave helps to retain talent," says Dr. Christina Mangurian, senior author and Professor and Vice Chair for Diversity and Equity at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry. "Available data now also shows that paid maternity leave is good for the physical and mental health of mothers and their children. So now we know it's not just good for business, it's also good for the health of working families."
Click here to read "The Impact of Paid Maternity Leave on the Mental and Physical Health of Mothers and Children."

DOI: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000246

About the Harvard Review of Psychiatry

The Harvard Review of Psychiatry is the authoritative source for scholarly reviews and perspectives on a diverse range of important topics in psychiatry. Founded by the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry, the journal is peer reviewed and not industry sponsored. It is the property of Harvard University and is affiliated with all of the Departments of Psychiatry at the Harvard teaching hospitals. Articles encompass major issues in contemporary psychiatry, including neuroscience, epidemiology, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy, history of psychiatry, and ethics.

About Wolters Kluwer

Wolters Kluwer (WKL) is a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the clinicians, nurses, accountants, lawyers, and tax, finance, audit, risk, compliance, and regulatory sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with advanced technology and services.

Wolters Kluwer reported 2018 annual revenues of €4.3 billion. The group serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs approximately 18,600 people worldwide. The company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands.

Wolters Kluwer provides trusted clinical technology and evidence-based solutions that engage clinicians, patients, researchers and students with advanced clinical decision support, learning and research and clinical intelligence. For more information about our solutions, visit and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @WKHealth.

For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Wolters Kluwer Health

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to