Motherhood at work: Exploring maternal mental health

Postpartum affects mental health at work. What can companies do about it?

1 in 5 women will experience a mental health disorder in the postpartum period such as postpartum depression or generalized anxiety disorder.

How an organization handles a mother’s return to work can have a significant impact on her mental health, according to new research from the University of Georgia.

Organizations control many of the work-related factors that predict better mental health outcomes. This may include access to paid maternity leave, overall workload and job flexibility.

But lead author Rachel McCardel, a doctoral student in UGA’s College of Public Health, said previous research examining mother’s mental health in relation to work has added back to work with maternity leave.

“But back to work is more than that, because while maternity leave is an important resource, it doesn’t cover the actual process, such as when leave ends, when you resume work, and when you begin to consolidate your roles as an employee. a mother,” she said.

Understanding the role back to work plays in a working mother’s mental health can help navigate solutions. It will show where interventions or support can prevent or reduce the burden of conditions such as depression or anxiety.

The roles of mother and employee may conflict.

The authors conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed articles investigating mental health among working mothers in the United States over the past 20 years. health.

“But when we synthesized all the work together, we found that a kind of conflict emerged between the responsibilities and demands of being an employee and the responsibilities of being a parent and wanting to meet the needs of both roles,” she said. McCardel

A greater conflict between the two roles they found led to worse mental health outcomes.

In workplace research, return to work is a term that applies to people who have been injured or left work for a long time due to an illness and return to the workplace.

“There are return-to-work programs, and in some cases, there is a very systematic process for assessing an employee’s ability and adjusting their job responsibilities to assist their return because research shows that returning to the workplace after an injury or injury has positive benefits. It’s a disease, but there’s a balance,” says Padilla, an associate professor in the College of Public Health.

“While we see pregnancy in the US workplace as a disability and illness, I don’t know if we had the same conversations about returning to work after having a baby.”

The results of this study reveal some strategies that individuals can take to support their mental health when they return to work. First, co-worker support was cited as an important resource for parents returning to work. But the organization’s policies will ultimately have the greatest impact.

McCardel says this review highlights why it’s critical for workplaces to deliberately address maternal mental health.

“It’s about creating this structure to say you’re not alone. To show that as an organization you care and value your employees. Let’s have a structure where we can have these conversations and meet these needs,” McCardel said.

Joining McCardel and Padilla is third co-author Emily Loedding, who is also a PhD student at the College of Public Health.

The article was published in the July issue of the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

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