The maternal health outcomes of paid maternity leave: a systematic review

Aitken, Zoe, Garrett, Cameryn C., Hewitt, Belinda, Keogh, Louise, Hocking, Jane S. and Kavanagh, Anne M. (2015) The maternal health outcomes of paid maternity leave: a systematic review. Social Science and Medicine, 130 32-41. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.02.001

Author Aitken, Zoe
Garrett, Cameryn C.
Hewitt, Belinda
Keogh, Louise
Hocking, Jane S.
Kavanagh, Anne M.
Title The maternal health outcomes of paid maternity leave: a systematic review
Journal name Social Science and Medicine   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1873-5347
Publication date 2015-04-01
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.02.001
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 130
Start page 32
End page 41
Total pages 10
Place of publication Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Elsevier
Language eng
Subject 3306 Health (social science)
1207 History and Philosophy of Science
2700 Medicine
Abstract Paid maternity leave has become a standard benefit in many countries throughout the world. Although maternal health has been central to the rationale for paid maternity leave, no review has specifically examined the effect of paid maternity leave on maternal health. The aim of this paper is to provide a systematic review of studies that examine the association between paid maternity leave and maternal health. We conducted a comprehensive search of electronic databases (Medline, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Sociological Abstracts) and Google Scholar. We searched websites of relevant organisations, reference lists of key papers and journals, and citation indices for additional studies including those not in refereed journals. There were no language restrictions. Studies were included if they compared paid maternity leave versus no paid maternity leave, or different lengths of paid leave. Data were extracted and an assessment of bias was performed independently by authors. Seven studies were identified, with participants from Australia, Sweden, Norway, USA, Canada, and Lebanon. All studies used quantitative methodologies, including cohort, cross-sectional, and repeated cross-sectional designs. Outcomes included mental health and wellbeing, general health, physical wellbeing, and intimate partner violence. The four studies that examined leave at an individual level showed evidence of maternal health benefits, whereas the three studies conducting policy-level comparisons reported either no association or evidence of a negative association. The synthesis of the results suggested that paid maternity leave provided maternal health benefits, although this varied depending on the length of leave. This has important implications for public health and social policy. However, all studies were subject to confounding bias and many to reverse causation. Given the small number of studies and the methodological limitations of the evidence, longitudinal studies are needed to further clarify the effects of paid maternity leave on the health of mothers in paid employment.
Keyword Maternal health
Maternity leave
Mental health
Systematic review
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: Institute for Social Science Research - Publications
Official 2016 Collection
School of Social Science Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 11 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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