Maternity leave: Beyond just birthing

Dr SushmaTomar, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan~

On August 11th 2016, the Rajya Sabha passed an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, stating that the period of maternity leaves would increase from 12 to 26 weeks, which is for over 6 months; the proposal was approved this year. The bill also provides up to 12 weeks of leave to mother’s who have adopted a child, below the age of three months and for commissioning mothers. The amended law also facilitates a ‘work from home’ policy for mothers who are nursing, once the leave period ends. It has also made mandatory a crèche facility at establishments with over 50 women employees.

Maternity leave Beyond just birthing

Seeking sufficient leave plays an important role in childcare for both, the child as well as the mother. For a mother, returning to work immediately after childbirth can be physically and mentally taxing. Doctors recommend that a woman stay off her feet for at least six weeks post-delivery, for normal deliveries and those without any complications. Hormones are in a funk postpartum; approximately 10 – 15% of women suffer from Postpartum Depression*. A woman’s mood can go from happy to weighed-down within seconds. It is imperative that women sustain a good amount of rest at home post pregnancy before rejoining official duties.

It is often perceived that the most important factor which entails maternity leave is breastfeeding. WHO recommends that a child be breastfed after an hour of birth and continue to be on just breast milk for the first six months*.  Breastfeeding, however important for the growth and nutrition of the baby is not the only factor. The underlying problem which needs to be addressed is the mental health of the mother. The emotional bond that is forged between a mother and child during the initial first few weeks is indescribable. This is not only helpful for the baby, but for the mother as well. A mother would definitely feel at ease if she is close to her baby and at the same time does not have to bother about work.

Mothers who resume work shortly after childbirth are said to go through Anxiety, Depression and face poor health. According to Dr Sushma Tomar, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, “Women who stay at home post-delivery are less prone to develop mental health issues as opposed to those rejoining work commitments immediately. It is important to ease out the stress that develops over the nine months, gradually piling on after birth, up to the period of nurturing your baby”.

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