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Medical News & Perspectives
February 16, 2016

Despite Potential Health Benefits of Maternity Leave, US Lags Behind Other Industrialized Countries

JAMA. 2016;315(7):643-645. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.18609

The United States and Papua New Guinea usually aren’t mentioned in the same sentence, but they have at least 1 unlikely thing in common. They’re the only 2 countries worldwide that don’t guarantee paid maternity leave, according to the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency, which recommends at least 18 weeks of maternity leave (http://bit.ly/1TOKuAW; http://bit.ly/1RQTGXh).

In contrast, US working women on average reported being eligible for 9 weeks of maternity leave, with only 3.7 weeks of that fully paid or partially paid, according to the government’s Infant Feeding Practices Study II, conducted in 2005-2007 (http://1.usa.gov/1n3jqUx). Low-wage workers are even less likely to have access to paid family leave through their employers, which includes maternity leave, relative to high-wage workers—5% vs 22% (http://1.usa.gov/1MgaGPw).

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