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Maternity leave shows health benefits

Employers are being encouraged to offer generous maternity packages after the benefits have been exposed.
The health benefits for both mother and baby of taking maternity leave before and after giving birth have been revealed by two new studies.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found in the first study that women who choose to start maternity leave in the last month of pregnancy are 73 per cent less likely to have a Caesarean section than those who work right up to delivery.

Meanwhile, the second study found that new mothers were more likely to establish a successful breastfeeding routine if they delayed their return to work after giving birth.

Both studies were part of the Juggling Work and Life During Pregnancy study, funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau in America.

The researchers concluded that maternity leave was beneficial because reducing the number of Caesarean section deliveries and increasing breastfeeding rates are both desirable outcomes.

Sylvia Guendelman, professor of maternal and child health at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health, explained: "C-sections are really a costly procedure, leading to extended hospital stays. For babies, it is known that breastfeeding protects them from infection and may decrease the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), allergies and obesity.

"What we're trying to say here is that taking maternity leave may make good health sense, as well as good economic sense."

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