Postpartum depression affects nearly 13 percent of new mothers and primarily occurs within the first 3 months after childbirth. A new study suggests that longer maternity leave decreases a women’s risk for postpartum depression. Researchers followed more than 800 Minnesota women during their first year postpartum. Data were gathered on the women’s depressive symptoms at 6 and 12 weeks, and at 6 and 12 months after childbirth. The findings indicate that women who returned to work before 6 months postpartum had an increased risk of experiencing postpartum depression. Under U.S. law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows women 12 weeks of unpaid leave after childbirth; the researchers concluded that many women cannot afford to take advantage of this law, because they cannot forgo their salaries for that long. Women who are likely to be lower income must return to work before they are ready, and researchers speculate that these women have a higher risk of postpartum depression. They advocate for further discussion on policies to ensure adequate paid parental leave is available to all who need it.
Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, December 2013
We know that the risk of developing cancer can be reduced by maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in sufficient physical activity. A new study looked at the impact on women’s health of following the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Nutrition and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention Guidelines. Researchers analyzed longitudinal data collected over 8.3 years from more than 66,000 post-menopausal women aged 50 to 79. The results indicate that women who strictly followed the ACS cancer prevention guidelines had a 17% lower risk of cancer, 20% lower risk of cancer-related mortality, and a 27% lower risk of death from all causes over the study period. These results indicate that following the ACS guidelines can have a major impact on reducing women’s risk of death from cancer.
Journal on Cancer Prevention Research, January 2014
Currently, 10 states have laws that force women to have a mandatory vaginal ultrasound and view the image before they can receive abortion care. According to a recent study, however, looking at ultrasounds does not change women’s decisions about their pregnancies. Researchers analyzed the decisions of 15,575 women who sought abortion care, received an ultrasound, and were offered the chance to look at it. Of the 42% of the women who looked at the ultrasound, 98.4% terminated the pregnancy; among women who did not look at the ultrasound, 99% terminated the pregnancy. Only about 17 women changed their minds after viewing the ultrasound and the researchers noted that these women were among those who reported they were unsure about getting an abortion before having the ultrasound. These results debunk the sexist assumption that women haven’t given enough thought to their reproductive health care decisions and highlight the real purpose of these laws: to make access to abortion as inconvenient as possible.
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, January 2014