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Giving Dads a 30-Day Paternity Leave Means Better Postpartum Recovery for Mom
  • The health community worldwide has always aimed to reduce maternal and infant mortality with much of the efforts focusing on hospital birth and after-birth policies. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends to let childbirth progress with as little medical intervention as possible as long as it does not pose unnecessary risk to the mom and baby. It has also put in place the Essential Newborn Practices, such as delayed cord clampingskin-to-skin contact, and breastfeeding.

    While a new mom and her newborn typically stay in the hospital for two to four days, it is at home where she becomes more vulnerable because she does not always have the extra pair of hands of nurses at the hospital. That should change, because according to a new study, having an extra person at home, either the new dad or a caregiver, who is solely dedicated to aiding a woman who had just given birth offers the new mom significant postpartum health benefits.

    The researchers looked at the effects of a 2012 Swedish law that allows fathers to take up to 30 days of paternity leave within the year after the birth of a child to help his partner, the new mom, during her maternity leave. Before the law was passed, parental leaves of moms and dads were not allowed to overlap except for the first 10 days after the birth of a child.

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    The non-overlapping parental leave policy was based on data that showed that when dads were left alone to care for their newborn, they become more involved in parenting and home chores going forward. The only downside was that new moms’ health suffered when she’s mostly alone caring for the baby in almost the entirety of their maternity leave.


    The study showed that having a partner present for more days during the first six months postpartum led to a decrease in prescriptions for anxiety by 26% compared to the time the 2012 Swedish policy was enacted. The number of women hospitalized or who consulted specialist doctors also went down by 14%. New moms’ antibiotic prescriptions were also down 11%.

    The researchers also discovered that dads often used their paternity leave days whenever their partner sought health care. But if new dads were present as new mom’s primary support system — helping them get more sleep, visit their doctor for wellness visits and preventive care, or nip a brewing infection before it got worse — it’s all for the better.

    “What we’re saying is one important component of that [the mother’s] home environment is the presence of the father or another adult caretaker,” Maya Rossin-Slater, the study’s lead author and faculty research fellow at the Department of Health Research and Policy in Stanford University School of Medicine, told The New York Times.

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    The days after giving birth demand the most from a mom. She’s recuperating as she breastfeeds and care for her newborn. During the first six weeks postpartum, new moms get almost no sleep, nursing her newborn on demand that she’s lucky to squeeze in a proper shower. Her uterus is cramping and bleeding as it returns to its pre-pregnancy shape; for those who had C-section, they are tending to a wound. Plus, a new mom’s hormones are still in chaos as it rewires her brain back to non-pregnant mode, so to speak.

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    The recently enacted 105-Day Maternity Leave Act is a step towards the right direction, giving moms more time to recover from childbirth, care and establish breastfeeding with their newborn, and prepare for her return to work, such as arranging for her child’s alternative caregiver.

    While the option to allot leaves to a mom’s partner or alternate caregiver is laudable, only seven of the 105 days of a new mom’s expanded maternity leave can be transferred. If they’re married and living together, the new dad is also eligible to avail of the mandated seven-day paternity leave to make it total of two weeks paternity leave or half of what’s indicated in the study.

    But it’s a start. We hope lawmakers who have been vocal about increasing the days for paternity leave will actually act on it.

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