Returning to work can be a tough time for new mothers for many reasons… Thankfully, there’s something employers can do to support them through this testing time. Dr Neil Gordon, CEO and founder of INTERVENT International,1 looks at this important topic and explains what you can do to help your returning mothers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF call upon all employers to adopt family-friendly policies, especially those that support maternal mental health and breastfeeding.
Family-friendly policies support women’s participation in the workforce, improve their physical and mental health and enhance family wellbeing. Such policies have been shown to increase employee retention, improve job satisfaction and result in fewer absences, which in turn advances business objectives. In short, family-friendly policies are good for families, babies and business.2
Maternal mental health
According to a report from the Maternal Morbidity Working Group of the WHO, about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental health disorder, primarily depression.3 The hormonal changes that occur during and after pregnancy are thought to be a likely cause of the mood swings that commonly occur after childbirth. The “baby blues” are a less severe type of postpartum depression, a more serious condition that can last for months or years.
When new mothers can’t function properly due to stress, anxiety or depression, their productivity will suffer when they return to work. Also, their children’s growth and development may be negatively affected. Virtually all women can develop mental health disorders during pregnancy and in the first year after delivery. Fortunately, these conditions are treatable. New mothers should be educated about symptoms of depression and anxiety and encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider if symptoms are long lasting or severe.
A supportive work environment can help new mothers feel less stressed about keeping pace with workload demands and maintain better work-life balance. Flexible work schedules, work-based support groups, remote working options and employee assistance programs (EAPs) are a few of the ways that employers can provide support to new moms.4
Family-friendly policies are good for families, babies and business.
Support for breastfeeding
Mothers need time off from work to recover from birth and get breastfeeding off to a successful start. Returning to work too soon is a barrier to exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and continued breastfeeding until age two or longer – practices that can boost children’s immune system and provide protection from non-communicable diseases later in life. Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancers. When breastfeeding mothers return to work, they need access to a safe, private and hygienic space and breaks for expressing and storing breastmilk.2
New fathers need time off from work, too. Paid parental leave for fathers allows them to bond with their babies and promotes gender equality. It allows fathers to share in childrearing and household responsibilities.
Comprehensive maternity lifestyle management
As part of your organisation’s family-friendly policies, consider implementing a comprehensive maternity lifestyle management programme that supports women’s physical and mental health and includes breastfeeding counselling/coaching. At INTERVENT we have developed evidence-based, interactive, online educational resources to support women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. The resources are used as part of a programme that spans from pre-conception through the postpartum period and beyond.
We have two educational modules that are particularly relevant to new mothers returning to work.
“Adjusting to life with a new baby” – This module is typically addressed in the late second trimester or early third trimester. In addition to identifying support that is needed, mothers are reminded to practice good self-care before and after the baby is born. Ways to bond with the new baby are discussed, along with tips for helping other children adjust to the new baby.
“Breastfeeding and returning to work” – Returning to work and continuing to breastfeed is a major concern for many mothers. This module encourages nursing mothers who work to plan ahead to understand resources for breastfeeding from their health plan and at the workplace. Childcare options that support breastfeeding should also be explored. This module also includes information on selecting and using a breast pump and storing expressed breastmilk.
Thanks, Dr Gordon for this detailed overview. To find out more about how you can work with INTERVENT to implement a maternity lifestyle management programme and other topics in the programme, contact your MAXIS GBN representative or find out more about INTERVENT here.5
1. INTERVENT International LLC incorporated and registered in United States of America whose registered office is at 340 Eisenhower Drive, Building 1400, Suite 17, Savannah, GA 31406, United States of America
2. World Health Organization, Empower parents, enable breastfeeding. August 1, 2019
3. World Health Organization, Maternal health, July 28, 2017
4. American Psychiatric Association Center for Workplace Mental Health, Postpartum depression and anxiety, accessed at www.workplacementalhealth.org on December 4, 2020
5. MAXIS GBN may receive fees, commissions and/or other remuneration from third parties in connection with the services we carry out for you.
This document has been prepared by MAXIS GBN and is for informational purposes only – it does not constitute advice. MAXIS GBN has made every effort to ensure that the information contained in this document has been obtained from reliable sources, but cannot guarantee accuracy or completeness. The information contained in this document may be subject to change at any time without notice. Any reliance you place on this information is therefore strictly at your own risk. This document is strictly private and confidential, and should not be copied, distributed or reproduced in whole or in part, or passed to any third party.