- Finland’s government, led by 34-year-old Prime Minister Sanna Marin, just approved a new policy that gives both parents seven months of leave after childbirth.
- The policy could positively impact new mothers. Women’s physical and mental health benefits with another partner at home after a child is born, research suggests.
- In Sweden, new mums go to the hospital less and need less anti-anxiety medication when both parents take work off for childcare.
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Finland may have made a significant move in reducing postpartum depression among new mums.
The country’s government, led by 34-year-old Prime Minister Sanna Marin, will give both new parents seven months of parental leave after childbirth. Pregnant women get an additional month of leave before giving birth.
The updates will replace the country’s current policy that provides gender-based pay for four months for new mothers and two months for new fathers, according to NPR. The new policy will go into effect in 2021.
Marin says the move will improve gender equality and is part of her government’s plan to pass wide-sweeping social reforms. Marin is the youngest female prime minister in the world, and a majority of her cabinet members are women.
Along with giving fathers more time with their newborns, the progressive policy can improve new mothers’ physical and mental health, research suggests, and prevent postpartum depression.
Research finds that having both partners at home after childbirth improves a new mum’s anxiety and wellbeing.
While everybody is focused on the baby after it’s born, mothers are acutely at risk.
Worldwide, 17.7% of new mothers experience postpartum depression.
While the potential causes of maternal distress are many,new research on Sweden suggests that simply having fathers more available to help out with the newborn can lead to huge gains in mental health for mothers. Sweden has Europe’s most generous parental leave, NPR reported, at 240 days per parent.
Mothers are 14% less likely to visit a doctor for childbirth-related complications when fathers are present for the first few of a baby’s life. They are also 11% less likely to require antibiotic prescriptions, and 26% less likely to need anti-anxiety medication.
The new National Bureau of Economics working paper, authored by Stanford economists Petra Persson and Maya Rossin-Slater, focused on the impact of parental leave policies in the Nordic country, which offers some of the world’s most generous parental leave.
In 2012, Sweden passed the the “Double Days” reform to allow paid parental leave for both fathers and mothers simultaneously. Parents could use it for up to 30 days in the child’s first year of life, either all at once or staggered throughout the year.
The results spell out the importance of having child-rearing be combined effort.
“A lot of focus has been on what we can do in the hospital immediately following childbirth, but less on mothers’ home environment, which is where the vast majority of women spend most of their postpartum time,” Rossin-Slater tells the New York Times.
Unlike other developed countries, the US offers new mums few opportunities for paid leave or job security after childbirth.
Having dads around likely helps mums recover from the ordeal of pregnancy. Other research published this month found pregnancy pushes womens’ bodies to extremes similar to if they trekked the Arctic or completed the Tour de France.
The US stands as one of the few developed countries without federal parental leave programs, despite the fact most Americans support paid leave policies. Just a handful of states, such as California and New York, have their own paid family leave laws.
The policies, or lack thereof, force many parents into taking unpaid maternity leave, which can leave families financially strained – a trend that may be leading millennials to have less children than other generations.
“What we’re saying is one important component of that home environment is the presence of the father or another adult caretaker,” Rossin-Slater told The Times.