Although it's commonly left out in our pop culture depictions of birth, after the baby is born, the mother delivers the placenta. The placenta is the organ that grows to transfer nutrients to the baby and remove waste from the amniotic sac. It's really an amazing organ, I might even write a whole article on it someday! Once the placenta is delivered, birth is complete and recovery can begin. Of course, physically recovering from a birth isn't a walk in the park! Did you know that the placenta leaves a wound the size of a DINNER PLATE on the inside of the uterus? I just learned this recently, and I'm a doula! Wow! No wonder new moms need time to rest and heal after their baby is born!
The wound left by the placenta as it detaches from the uterus is just one part of the physical aftermath of birth. Moms might also be dealing with post-surgery pain, stitches or staples, prolapse, blood loss, or more. On top of that, they might be trying to breastfeed a newborn with any number of latch problems. Worse, they might be coping with a baby who has been admitted to the hospital for complications. My point is: the immediate days and weeks after birth are rough, even under the best of circumstances. Too often, women aren't recovering under those best circumstances, either.
All too often, women are forced to spend this delicate time back at work instead of recuperating in the comfort of their home. There's a practice called "laying in" that essentially means mom and baby nest together and literally stay in bed for a few weeks. The only thing they're expected to do is nurse, bond, and rest. In some countries, however, that "laying in" period isn't an option. The United States has zero federally protected maternity leave. That means that mothers who have babies might not get any recovery time - or, if they take a few weeks off from work, they may lose their job.
But other countries have policies that mandate employers provide some form of maternity leave. Some leave is paid, some unpaid - and the length of time for mom and baby to be together varies. The following information is up-to-date as of May 2018.
Just over the border, Canada offers mothers seventeen weeks of maternity leave! None of that leave is required before the due date, so all seventeen weeks can be used to "lay in" with the newborn. However, these mothers are only entitled to slightly less than half of their income. In effect, they receive just over eight weeks of pay spread across those seventeen weeks.
Mothers in Austria get a pretty great deal - sixteen full weeks of maternity leave! Their employers are required to pay 100% of their salary during that time, so there's no change in income. However, Austrian moms are required to begin their leave eight weeks before their due date. That means that they really only get eight weeks of recovery time.
Irish mothers can take a full 26 weeks of leave - that's six months, for those who are counting! But on average, they receive less than 35% of their pay during that time. My instinct tells me that not every family can afford such an extended decrease in pay.
French moms enjoy sixteen weeks of leave and receive an average of 94% of their income during that leave. Oui, c'est vrai!
The Mexican government offers Mexican moms a full three months - 12 weeks - of maternity leave, paid at 100% of their income. That income would definitely help a recovering mama rest easy!
The United Kingdom
The UK has a somewhat complex structure to their maternity leave policy. Mothers in the UK are entitled to a full 52 weeks of leave - yes, a whole year! Can you imagine being able to celebrate your baby's first birthday before heading back to the office? What a joy! However, that joy might be tempered slightly. UK moms can only receive income for the first 39 of those 52 weeks. Even when they are eligible to receive their salary, they only receive just under 31% of their previous pay. All in all, that's only twelve weeks of pay.
This beautiful country offers thirty weeks of maternity leave, paid at 100% of the previous salary. Wow! That's seven months of time to get to know your little one.
As an American, I've got to hand it to literally every other developed country in the world. Somehow, you guys have protected moms who are recovering from childbirth by providing some form of maternity leave. No two policies look exactly alike from country to country, but all provide the same peace of mind. Moms can allow their bodies to heal, bond with their babies, and focus on the work at hand - nurturing new life.
Do you have maternity leave offered in your country? Perhaps your employer has a specific policy in place? What does that provide for new moms? Tweet me the details @pi3sugarpi3 with #MaternityLeave!