Italian European Parliament member Licia Ronzulli voted on maternity leave legislation in October 20, 2010. Paid leave has been found to be beneficial for babies in wealthy countries and, now, in other countries too.

Italian European Parliament member Licia Ronzulli voted on maternity leave legislation in October 20, 2010. Paid leave has been found to be beneficial for babies in wealthy countries and, now, in other countries too.
Photo Credit: Christian Lutz/AP Photo

Paid maternity leave cuts infant mortality: study

For every extra month new mothers get paid maternity leave in low and middle-income countries, the infant mortality rate is reduced by 13 per cent, according to a study from McGill University and UCLA.

In other words, adding one month of paid leave prevents about eight infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The biggest effect occurred in babies aged between one month and one year.

Less stress, better health

Although the study did not look at why this happens, the researchers have some ideas. They think that paid maternity benefits reduce mothers’ stress levels and that such mothers have better health behaviours that are associated with better infant health.

“The idea is that if mothers have paid leave for a longer duration, they’re more likely to exclusively breast feed their child or receive essential vaccines,” says Arijit Nandi, a researcher and assistant professor at McGill University. They are also more likely to seek medical help if baby appears unwell.

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Prof. Arijit Nandi says paid maternity leave may reduce stress on mothers and promote behaviours better for babies’ health.
Prof. Arijit Nandi says paid maternity leave may reduce stress on mothers and promote behaviours better for babies’ health. © Stella Yi

Room for improvement exists

Nandi says low and middle-income countries could try to improve their infant mortality rates by increasing pay parental leave. Often they do not have much maternity leave, so he says there is room for improvement.

Only a few countries have no paid maternity leave. They include Papua New Guinea, Suriname and the United States. Many European countries do have such programs. Canada offers paid leave to both mothers and fathers and may expand its program.

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One comment on “Paid maternity leave cuts infant mortality: study
  1. lilos says:

    This is true. All i wish for is better maternity leave to become available for everyone, everywhere.. We’re now trying for baby # 2, back to taking pregnancytips, and I wish for a good leave too.