The postpartum period affects mental health at work. What can companies do about it?
Up to 1 in 5 postpartum women will experience a mental health disorder Such as postpartum depression or generalized anxiety disorder.
New research from the University of Georgia shows that the way an organization handles a mother’s return to work can have a significant impact on her mental health.
Organizations control the majority of work-related factors that predict better mental health outcomes. This can include paid maternity leave, total workload, and work flexibility.
Rachel McCardell, a doctoral student in the University of Georgia School of Public Health, said previous research that looked at a mother’s mental health in relation to work has negated the return to work with maternity leave.
“But going back to work is more than that because, while maternity leave is an important resource, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the actual process of when the leave ends and when you start resuming work, when you start to combine your roles as an employee,” she said.
Understanding the role returning to work plays in the mental health of a working mother may help the search for solutions. It will indicate where interventions or support can prevent or relieve conditions such as depression or anxiety.
Parent and employee roles can conflict
The authors conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed articles from the past 20 years that explored mental health among working mothers in the United States. The studies included a variety of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, and sometimes conflicting about whether returning to work improved or harmed mentality. health.
“But putting all the studies together, we saw a kind of conflict arise between balancing the responsibilities and demands associated with being an employee, as well as the responsibilities associated with being a parent, and the desire to meet the needs of both roles.” McCardell.
They found that greater inconsistency between the two roles led to worse mental health outcomes.
In workplace research, co-author Heather Padilla explained, return to work is a term applied to people who have been injured or are out of work for a long time due to illness and are returning to the workplace.
“There is a return to work programs and, in some cases, a very systematic process of evaluating an employee’s ability and adjusting their job responsibilities to help return again because research shows there are positive benefits to returning to the workplace after an injury,” said Padilla, associate professor in the School of Public Health. It’s a disease, but there is a balance.”
“I don’t know that we have the same conversations about going back to work after having a baby even though we treat pregnancy largely as a disability and a disease in the workplace in the United States.”
The results of this study reveal some of the strategies individuals can follow to support their mental health when they return to work. Co-worker support, for example, has been cited as an important resource for parents returning to work. But the organization’s policies will ultimately have the greatest impact.
McCardell says this review underscores why workplaces are important to addressing a mother’s mental health in an intentional way.
“It’s about creating that structure to say you’re not alone. To show that as an organization, you care and value your employees. Let’s create a structure where we can have those conversations and meet those needs,” McCardell said.
Joining McCardell and Padilla is third co-author Emily Lodge, who is also a doctoral student in the School of Public Health.
The paper Published in the July issue of the Journal of Maternal and Child Health.
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