• Fri, Nov 11 2011

More Women Today Are Working Late Into Their Pregnancies

Yesterday we reported that for the first time in America a majority of first-time mothers have received paid maternity leave. Today a new study reports that more first-time mothers are working late into their pregnancy and then returning to the office soon after the baby arrives, according to the Census Bureau. Women are increasingly tending to work during pregnancy. Among those with a first birth between 2006 and 2008, the portion who worked during pregnancy reached 66%, compared with 44% for those with a first birth between 1961 and 1965. Among women who worked during pregnancy, about 82% of those with a first birth between 2006 and 2008 worked until one month or less before their child’s birth, compared with 73% for those with a first birth between 1991 and 1995. Those rates are up from about 35% for a first birth between 1961 and 1965. Among women who worked during pregnancy, about 59% with a first birth between 2005 and 2007 were back at work three months after the baby’s arrival, compared with 57% for a first birth between 1991 and 1994, and 17% between 1961 and 1965. Women with at least a high-school diploma were more likely to return to work within three months after giving birth.

“Trends over the last 30 years suggest that first-time mothers are working later into their pregnancy. Expecting mothers may work longer into their pregnancy for reasons other than financial needs. Many may view their jobs as a long-term investment,” according to the Census Bureau report “Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns of First-Time Mothers: 1961-2008.”  Women with more education were more likely to use paid leave, as were those who work full time. According to new research from the University of Warwick, many women in the UK are going back to work full-time or abandon their careers after having a child because of a lack of part-time work, particularly those in senior or highly-paid roles. Lead author of the study Clare Lyonette says many women in more senior positions found they could not return to their previous jobs on a part-time basis after maternity leave but women in lower-paid positions were most likely to go back to work part-time. [tagbox tag= "maternity leave"]

“Our nation remains mired in a conversation about whether mothers should work, but the reality is that most already do,” said Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. But what does seem to help mothers who return after a short maternity leave is coming back to a nurturing and supportive work environment. A flexible work schedule helps employers retain mothers who have just returned to their jobs after giving birth, according to a new study. ”When confronted by one or more job demands, a flexible schedule provides working moms with alternatives for meeting those demands while caring for their newborns. When working moms are better able to control their work environment and adapt, work-related stress is less likely to become a family issue,” study author Dawn S. Carlson, a professor of management at Baylor University. She and her colleagues also found that working women with new babies were more likely to stick with their jobs if they have job security and can make use of a variety of their job skills, while the effects of work-related stress on their physical and mental health increases the risk of them leaving their job. The researchers surveyed 179 full-time working mothers in North Carolina, average age 31, at three intervals, scheduled at four, eight and 12 months after they gave birth. The women had worked an average of 39.7 hours per week and planned on returning to work 30 or more hours a week four months after giving birth.

Photo: RTimages/Shutterstock.com

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  • CW

    Why wouldn’t a healthy pregnant woman work up to the end of her pregnancy? I worked up until the day before I delivered my first child and up until 3 days before I delivered my 2nd (and that’s because I started experiencing irregular contractions). What’s the point in starting the clock on one’s maternity leave before the baby’s arrival is imminent?

    • Melinda

      Agree. My initial thought was, who can *afford* to take off work before the baby arrives? The way things are nowadays, both parents need to work in order to maintain the home. Sure, there are exceptions, but a majority of people I know both work, and the women were at their jobs clear up until they had their child, and were back to work almost immediately after their maternity leave.

  • Lissie

    I’m an elementary school teacher. Last year worked until 4 days AFTER my due date with my 5th child. I wasn’t showing any signs of labor and it didn’t make sense to use up my maternity leave before the baby even came. (She ended up being 8 days late!)

  • frances

    I worked up until four weeks before my due date with my oldest, and I ended up giving birth a day later. Thankfully she was 6lbs, and no worse for wear. With my second and final babies I worked from home for my own business, so I basically never took a break at all.