Study Finds Maternal Health Improves After Childbirth When Mom's Partner Can Stay Home

Having a partner at home, even for a few days, offers significant postpartum benefits for new moms.

By: Amanda Mushro
New family member, baby girl

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New family member, baby girl

Photo by: StefaNikolic

StefaNikolic

The first few months with a newborn usually feels like an endless cycle of feedings, changing diapers and not a lot of sleep. For a mom who is recovering from labor, delivery and her body adjusting to fluctuating hormones, the newborn haze quickly takes a toll on her mental and physical health. While we are finally beginning to have conversations about how we can best help new moms, one study says that paid leave for mom’s partner can be essential.

According to a new study, a significant difference can be made in a mother’s postpartum health if the other parent has paid leave and can use it on days mom needs extra help or support.

“A lot of focus has been on what we can do in the hospital immediately following childbirth, but less on mothers’ home environment, which is where the vast majority of women spend most of their postpartum time,” Maya Rossin-Slater, a researcher on the study, said. “What we’re saying is one important component of that home environment is the presence of the father or another adult caretaker.”

For the study, researchers looked at the effects of a Swedish law that allows fathers to take off work for up to 30 days following the birth of their child. What they found was in the first six months postpartum, moms reported a 26 percent decrease in anti-anxiety prescriptions, a 14 percent reduction in hospitalizations and an 11 percent decrease in antibiotic prescriptions in comparison to the first six months postpartum for the moms who gave birth before the law went into effect.

Having your partner home to help during those critical first months of parenthood could be a real game-changer for moms during their postpartum recovery. With the extra help, new moms can take care of their babies and take care of themselves. However, in America, this isn’t an option for a lot of families.

Since the United States doesn’t have mandated paid leave, staying home to help a partner could mean no paycheck. In Sweden, new fathers are able to take paid leave as needed throughout the first year.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists considers a woman to be in the postpartum phase for the first year after delivering a baby. That's an entire year—not just the first few days. If the United States had policies similar to Sweden, Dad could use their paid time off when Mom really needs the help, when she needs to get to her own doctors appointments or when she needs to focus on her own mental health needs.

When mothers are healthier, babies are healthier. If having a partner at home can help mothers become healthier, we need to see some major changes in America.

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