Maternity Leave: Is It a Feminist Issue?
Career or child care? It’s an unfortunate dilemma faced by every working woman with a baby on the way. Should she take a lengthy maternity leave, knowing that more time at home can improve the well-being of both mother and child? After all, research shows maternity leaves are related to lower infant mortality and reduced maternal stress. Or should she forego that long maternity leave, knowing that getting back to work quickly will improve her career opportunities?
Every employer shall grant to any pregnant woman employee who has rendered an aggregate service of at least six (6) months for the last twelve (12) months, maternity leave of at least two (2) weeks prior to the expected date of delivery and another four (4) weeks after normal delivery or abortion with full pay based on her regular or average weekly wages. The employer may require from any woman employee applying for maternity leave the production of a medical certificate stating that delivery will probably take place within two weeks. Normal Spontaneous Vaginal Delivery (NSVD) is the most common and safest mode of child delivery. It is the process wherein fetal expulsion is accomplished when the baby passes through and out of the vaginal canal. It usually requires minimal medical intervention as it is the normal and natural method that humans deliver an offspring. Naturally, due to factors such as uterine muscle stretching, hormonal changes, and placental age, the uterus is stimulated and begins to contract. Also, the baby’s head which puts direct pressure on the cervix causes its effacement and dilatation – the process by which the cervix shortens in length and thins out while enlarging or widening the opening of the cervical canal. With the subsequent intermittent contractions of the uterus and the effacement and dilatation of the cervix, together with frequentfetalposition changes to keep the smallest diameter of the fetal head always presenting to the smallest diameter of the maternal pelvis, and with the natural pull of gravity as well, the fetus is propelled through the birth canal and out of the mother’s system. However, in some instances and due to some abnormalities in the dynamics of childbirth, the fetus cannot efficiently and effectively propel itself out of the birth canal. In such cases, the use of assistive devices such as a vacuum or forceps is necessary to guide and draw out the child from the mother’s womb safely.
In the article, “The Effects of Paid Maternity Leave: Evidence From Temporary Disability Insurance,” author, Jenna Sterns writes: “Maternity leave programs are designed to provide compensated and job-protected time off from work so that mothers can prepare for and recover from child birth and new parents can stay home to care for their infants. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a national policy granting new mothers access to paid time off from work.” (85). The only benefit that women may receive for giving birth, and post-partum relations is upheld by “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, providing 12 weeks of leave, and no further provisions regarding a paid leave.” (Mandal 1471). This benefit is highly limited to places of employment with 50 or more employees, who have worked at least 1250 hours for that employer in the prior year.” (Mandal 1471). Countries all over the world participate in a maternity leave policy and understand just how critical it is for a mother to have time with her new baby. Women in China are entitled to “128 days of maternity leave with provisions to extend the time further,” while a woman’s employer in the United States might, if they are required to, allow 12 weeks’ time, unpaid. Maternity leave and post-partum health are shown to be directly correlated with “positive associations.” (Avendano 46). Because “new mothers are subsequently at increased risk for a range of psychiatric disorders including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and postpartum psychosis.” the mandated length of a maternity leave should be highly reconsidered. (pg 45).
Ultimately, investing in paid parental leave for both sexes will benefit businesses in the long run. Further, when parents can financially afford to spend more time at home with their infants, they are helping to create better-adjusted and happier adults who will eventually also be entering the workforce. Treating men and women as equal workers and caretakers increases happiness levels in both sexes. It is a necessary long term investment, which is already paying off in countries where parents receive paid leave.
Aitken, Zoe, et al. “The Maternal Health Outcomes of Paid Maternity Leave: A Systematic Review.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 130, no. Apr 2015, 2015, pp. 32-41.
Avendano, Mauricio, et al. “The Long-Run Effect of Maternity Leave Benefits on Mental Health: Evidence from European Countries.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 132, 2015, pp. 45-53.
Mandal, Bidisha. “The Effect of Paid Leave on Maternal Mental Health.” Maternal and Child Health Journal, vol. 22, no. 10, 2018, pp. 1470-1476.