Laboring Until Labor: The Prevalence and Correlates of Antenatal Maternity Leave in the United States

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Maternal and Child Health Journal

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Introduction: Most women in the U.S. are employed during pregnancy and work until the month of childbirth. For many, working throughout pregnancy poses little threat to their health; however, women experiencing difficult pregnancies and/or working in strenuous or inflexible jobs may benefit from taking time from work as they approach childbirth, but almost no empirical evidence examines antenatal leave (ANL). Methods: Using a national survey of English-speaking women, this paper offers the first national description of ANL and examines state policy predictors of uptake. Results: Thirty-seven percent of employed women worked until the week their baby was due. After controlling for characteristics of women and their jobs, living in a state with any or multiple leave laws increased the probability of ANL by 14 and 23% points, respectively. Women living in states with multiple leave laws stopped work almost 2 weeks earlier than women in states without a policy. Discussion: Paid leave policies currently being considered at the federal, state, and local levels should consider the potential impact on antenatal leave, in addition to postnatal leave, and how they influence population health.



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