Original article| Volume 24, ISSUE 3, e297-e303, May 2014

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Maternal Depression, Pregnancy Intention, and Return to Paid Work After Childbirth



      Maternal depression is an important public health issue for women, their families, and their employers. Previous studies have examined the impact of leave duration on maternal depression, but none have studied the association between maternal depression and the pace of return to paid work. We examine herein the relationship between maternal depression and return to work, and the moderating effects of pregnancy intention.


      We utilized data from the Listening to Mothers II Survey collected from January 20 through February 21, 2006. The woman had to be 18 to 45 years old, speak English, and have given birth in 2005 to a live singleton baby in a U.S. hospital. Our analyses were limited to women who worked for an employer during pregnancy (n = 882). The primary outcome was return to paid work at the time of the interview and the analyses utilized Cox proportional hazard models.


      In combination, intending the baby and being depressed suppressed return to paid work. Nondepressed mothers with unintended pregnancies returned to work the soonest. Compared with mothers who were not depressed and with unintended pregnancy, the risk ratio of returning to paid work (0.70) was significantly lower for mothers who were depressed and had an intended pregnancy. Mothers who were not depressed and with intended pregnancy also had a significantly lower risk ratio (0.60) of returning to paid work than those who were not depressed and with unintended pregnancy.


      Primary care providers and policy makers can use these findings to support employed women in their childbearing years.
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      Rada K. Dagher, PhD, MPH, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services Administration at the University of Maryland. Her research applies the tools of occupational health services research and policy to study women's mental health especially after childbirth.


      Sandra L. Hofferth, PhD, MA, is Professor in the Department of Family Science at the University of Maryland. She researches how employment, family structure, and familial relationships are linked to parental and child health, and how family, community, and media influence children's activities.


      Yoonjoo Lee, MA, is a PhD student in the Department of Family Science at the University of Maryland. She is interested in family leave policies, the impact of live events transitions on individuals, and the time use patterns of children and families.