Maternity Leave & Mental Health: The One Small Thing Employers Can Do To Help

Research Shows Almost 40 Per Cent of Women Would Like Regular Updates From Their Workplace While On Maternity Leave

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A recent UK survey reveals that more than one-third of women on maternity leave would like to receive regular updates from their employer and stay up to speed with what is happening at their workplace during the time they’re at home with their baby.

While the majority of the survey’s respondents admitted they were in touch with work on a more informal basis through fellow colleagues, almost 40 per cent of new mothers would opt into a more formal mechanism for keeping in touch with their workplaces for the duration of their maternity leave.

The results come at a time when it’s estimated that 20 per cent of women experience some degree of perinatal depression or associated anxieties during pregnancy or early parenthood – with social isolation being one of the known risk factors for postnatal depression.

With, according to the survey, almost half of women on maternity leave feeling their employer ‘doesn’t care at all’ about their wellbeing while they’re at home with their child – and roughly the same amount of women admitting they found maternity leave more isolating than they expected – it seems having the need for regular contact with their workplace fulfilled could potentially go some way towards lessening a sense of loneliness for new mums until they return to work.

In a recent article for the website Irish News, Dr Darby Saxbe, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s psychology department, wrote about the typical struggles new parents experience. “It’s common to feel tired, stressed, and short-tempered in early parenthood,” Dr Saxbe writes. “You’ve got a tiny creature waking you up every few hours, demanding to be held and fed, and your pre-baby life and self are forever changed.”

Saxbe’s description of the early parenthood experience is an accurate depiction for a large portion of new mums, it seems. In the survey, which was conducted by Moment Health earlier this year, more than three quarters of women on maternity leave described their time at home with their baby as ‘enjoyable’.

But at the same time, more than 60 per cent almost admitted they found the period ‘busy’ and ‘tiring’, with almost 40 per cent adding it’s a ‘challenging’ time. Sixty-five per cent of respondents either strongly or slightly agreed that they found their maternity leave more ‘emotionally challenging’ than they expected.

“Who wouldn’t be overwhelmed,” writes Dr Saxbe. “We often hear about the bliss of welcoming a new baby, but less often about how exhausting, lonely, and frustrating those first few months can be.”

Alongside regular contact with their employers, those on maternity leave responded positively to other suggested supportive resources: more than a third of women gave a positive response for counselling support, while 49 per cent indicated they would regularly use an emotional wellbeing app, and 52 per cent would appreciate a maternity buddy scheme. Flexible working hours and access to private healthcare were also high on the list.

A bit about Moment Health…

Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.

The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It screens for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and includes additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.

At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.

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