A new mother’s postpartum health and mental well-being can improve if fathers are given some time off in the first few months after their children are born, a study found.
Released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, this study by Stanford economists actually examined the impact of a reform in Sweden which has made the parental leave system more flexible. The 2012 law allows fathers to take up to 30 days of paid leave on an intermittent basis within a year of their child’s birth even while the mothers are still on leave.
The study recorded clear benefits for the mother’s health due to the policy, including reductions in childbirth-related complications and postpartum anxiety.
As per the findings, mothers are 14 per cent less likely to need a specialist or be admitted to a hospital for child-related complications like infections within the first six months of the childbirth. They were also 11 per cent less likely to get an antibiotic prescription within that first half-year of their baby’s life.
The chance of anti-anxiety prescriptions saw a 26 per cent drop overall during the six-month postpartum period, with reductions in prescriptions being most pronounced during the first three months after childbirth. This happened when the average new father used paid leave for just a few days, showing how even a couple of days of extra support can impact a mother.
“Our study underscores that the father’s presence in the household shortly after childbirth can have important consequences for the new mother’s physical and mental health,” co-author Petra Persson, professor of economics, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, was quoted as saying.
“The key here is that families are granted the flexibility to decide, on a day-to-day basis, exactly when to have the dad stay home. If, for example, the mom gets early symptoms of mastitis while breastfeeding, the dad can take one or two days off from work so that the mom can rest, which may avoid complications from the infection or the need for antibiotics,” Persson further explained.
Maya Rossin-Slater, co-author, assistant professor of health research and policy, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, added, “These indirect benefits from giving fathers workplace flexibility are not trivial matters when you consider the health issues mothers often face after childbirth and after they get home from the hospital.”